History of the Alabama Negro Press, Post-Reconstruction to 1901

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University of Alabama Libraries

A survey of Alabama history books shows nothing significant to have been written about the early Alabama Negro press. However, Alabama's Negro press was founded immediately after Reconstruction, the period in which almost a half million bewildered and confused Negroes sought to find a place in a society which they did not fully comprehend. Their struggles were mirrored in the newspapers they created and consumed. Thus, a failure to study this press constitutes a serious omission on the part of the historians of the period. This is also apparent in their treatment of the former slave in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. "After investigating the periods of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction in lengthy and scholarly detail, the historians have ceased to study the Negro. . . . Just what happened to the Negro people between the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of the present century remains unclear." In fact, the general reaction to any serious study of Alabama's early Negro press is one of incredulity that there was such a press. However, at least sixty-seven Negro newspapers were published in Alabama in the period from the fall of the Reconstruction government to the advent of the twentieth century. Admittedly, most survived for short periods of time --- sometimes for only a few issues --- yet three still exist today. Moreover, as many as four newspapers were printed simultaneously in some cities. Negroes wanted to learn about each other; they wanted the stories of their progress, conflicts and issues told; they wanted to express their aspirations and their anguish. Since the white press was not an available medium for the Negro, he founded his own press and voiced his feelings there. The thesis of this paper is that a significant Negro press existed in Alabama in the nineteenth century.

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