Black newspapers in Texas, 1868-1970



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This study presents a survey of more than 100 commercial, black newspapers in Texas from 1868 to 1970. General development and analysis of the newspapers are presented in four periods, with special attention given to a few of the more prominent media. Black newspapers, directories and interviews served as major sources of information for the investigation. Most of Texas' black newspapers have been urban weeklies whose economic condition has been unstable but gradually improving. Circulation revenue was an essential source of income for many black newspapers. Local advertising was a more important source of revenue than national advertising. While the majority of the pre-depression papers existed four years or less, the majority of the post-depression papers published for more than 10 years. In the 1960's the number of controlled circulation papers and tabloids increased. The dominant ownership pattern was the individual proprietorship, although a few of the papers were incorporated. Frequently one man functioned in the dual capacity of editor and publisher. In style and graphics, a moderate approach to news presentation dominated Texas' black papers until the 1920's. But by the 1920's, crime and interracial violence were given extensive front-page coverage and displayed with banner headlines in some of Texas' black papers. News stories have been unapologetically slanted to black interests, phraseology and vocabulary. A refinement expression increasingly developed. Black unity, pride and advancement were among the continuous themes emphasized in the papers. After 1930, the number of central topics noticeably increased. They included black history and empowerment of lower-income blacks. Texas' black papers played a major role in the black man's civil rights struggle, generally taking forthright political stands. Pre-depression newspapers were usually Republican, whereas most post-depression papers were politically independent. These media led crusades which resulted in admission of blacks to the University of Texas Law School and black participation in primary elections. On the whole, Texas' black newspapers were more functional than dysfunctional, particularly to the black community in maintenance of social networks and the adaptation of groups to the total American social system. Papers communicated norms, values, attitudes and images with which the reader could identify. Empathy was also multiplied by the media. While social-responsibility characteristics were consistently more prevalent. In terms of integration-separatism and accommodation-protest sets of polarities, Texas' black papers consistently stressed integration and protest. Although these media were increasingly Afro-American in emphasis, black bourgeoisie tendencies predominated. This newspaper study discloses new sources for research in black history. A directory of black newspapers published in Texas is included