The current issue features two articles on the media outside the United States. J. Michael Lyons examines Free Russia, a publication founded to help topple the country’s czarist government in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In his article about Luigi Barzini Sr., Michael S. Sweeney explores what made the Italian one of the best war correspondents of the early twentieth century. On a domestic subject, Carrie Teresa looks at the coverage of American boxer Jack Johnson’s championship reign by black newspapers. And in his article about Elizabeth L. Banks, Randall S. Sumpter shows how not all “stunt girls” fit the pattern established by Nellie Bly and her imitators.
Teaching Our Journal
With each issue of American Journalism, we feature teaching materials for a particular article and provide free online access to the article (through Taylor & Francis, the publisher of American Journalism).
The teaching materials provide topical overviews and various exercises for teaching the article in either undergraduate or graduate classes. The author of the article creates the teaching exercises and provides links to relevant primary and secondary sources.
We hope these teaching materials and the historical studies they reference will enrich your media history courses and, most importantly, your students’ learning. And we hope you will let us know how you use American Journalism in your classrooms.
Volume 32, No. 1, 2015
By Carrie Teresa, Niagara University
“We Needed a Booker T. Washington…and Certainly a Jack Johnson” examines the relationship between the symbolic value of achievement in sport, the role of celebrity culture, and the fight for civil rights under Jim Crow oppression by considering how black press journalists covered prize fighter Jack Johnson’s championship reign. The exercises included here are meant to offer students a glimpse of how journalism has both reflected and contested hegemony over time. They will consider the black press’s role as a counterhegemonic force challenging Jim Crow oppression, and they will also consider how coverage of the doings of celebrities and achievement in sport reflect or challenge cultural norms, values, and prejudices.
Jack Johnson became popular fodder for black newspapers that often connected Johnson’s status as a celebrity with the black community’s fight for civil rights. The Washington Bee, the Chicago Defender, the Cleveland Gazette, the Baltimore Afro-American, and the Savannah Tribune all commenced publication by 1910, and all echoed in their institutional missions the importance of racial progress, pride, and uplift as important components in the fight for civil rights. For example, in a 1905 editorial, the Baltimore Afro-American explained that its purpose in publishing was “First to present to the world that side of the Afro-American that can be had in no other way, and in the second place to as far as possible assist in the great uplift of the people it represents.”
According to historians, the collective mission of the black press was to highlight achievements of the black community and to offer a public forum to discuss issues related to the struggle for freedom. These newspapers flouted objective reporting practices in favor of practicing civic or advocacy journalism. During the early twentieth century, as literacy rates for black Americans skyrocketed, the black newspaper became a primary source for news about black-centered issues, events, and personalities. Reading these newspapers was, for many black citizens, an important symbolic act in the fight for civil rights. As such, their subject matter and reporting practices diverged from that of the mainstream press of the time. Read more.