Black Press

Robert Sengstacke Abbott

Robert Sengstacke Abbott, founder of The Chicago Defender, c. 1919

The origins of the Black press date back to the early decades of the nineteenth century when African American men and women sought avenues to share accurate, meaningful stories of Black life and give voice to a wide range of Black experiences and the issues that mattered to them. Too often, mainstream media channels portrayed African Americans in a negative light, if they made reference to African Americans at all. The earliest Black owned and operated newspaper dates back to 1827 with the founding of Freedom’s Journal by John Russworm and Samuel Cornish. Black newspapers frequently contained editorials protesting racial injustice alongside stories that extolled Black achievements and documented everyday occurrences like births, deaths and community events.

In the 20th century, the Black press expanded in scope and influence with the publication of key national newspapers like the Chicago Defender, founded by Robert Sengstacke Abbott in 1905 and the Pittsburgh Courier, founded by Robert Lee Vann in 1910. These newspapers, along with Black journals, magazines, publishers, columnists, cartoonists, reporters, radio and television outlets have been at the fore of important movements and moments in Black history and culture. Today, the Black press encompasses a growing number of digital publications that continue the work of centering Black voices and stories.

View search results for this topic >>

Explore all curated topics >>

Image URL:

Citation: Public domain photograph of Robert Sengstacke Abbott, c. 1919.


The BMRC's Curated Topics list is designed to help remedy the pervasive invisibility of primary source material documenting Black history and culture. In development now, it will be a special vocabulary that concisely encapsulates the subject domain. If you'd like to be a part of developing this resource, email the Project Archivist at and let us know how you'd like to contribute.