Recently, The New York Times wrote a review on Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press by James McGrath Morris, a biography about an African American woman who broke journalistic barriers by getting out news via the Chicago Defender, “America’s premier black newspaper”. Created in the first half of the 20th Century when blacks did not have much access black newspapers, it was banned in many Southern states.
Pullman porters, men and women who were the underground heroes, transported bundles of the newspapers on various trains going southward to be delivered by hand instead of via the mail. This increased the circulation of the weekly news to over 130,000. As the “pre-eminent black female reporter of the civil rights era”, Payne overcame the obstacles racism presented and wrote about various hot topics in the African-American community such as voter registration drives, adoption by black families, and the Vietnam War.
In the documentary, Representative Danny Davis goes into detail about the Chicago Defender and its influence during the same time that Julius Rosenwald’s philanthropic efforts assisted in the building of Rosenwald schools.
To read more about the Chicago Defender, click here.
Photograph of Ethel Payne
Photo Source: www.google.com
Erica Marshall, Winter Intern