FROM LEFTE: Juan Williams and Kenneth Love

Inside Media: The Black National Newspaper

February 07, 2009

Guests: Juan Williams and Kenneth Love

By Maureen Freeman, programs coordinator

More than a journal of African-American life, The Pittsburgh Courier was a muckraking crusader in the vanguard of the civil rights movement.

In his new documentary, "Newspaper of Record: The Pittsburgh Courier," filmmaker Ken Love examines the newspaper’s role in reporting and shaping African-American history. Love discussed his film and the Courier with Juan Williams, author of "Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965."

Williams noted that the Courier was a key source of information about African-American history when he wrote his books.

"Newspapers like The Pittsburgh Courier become primary research tools for anyone trying to chronicle the history of the civil rights movement or write about the people who were key players," he said.

For much of the 20th century, especially its first half, the white-dominated press largely neglected coverage of African Americans. The black press filled the gaps in capturing news of their everyday lives, as well as the ebbs and flows of historic social movements.

According to Love, the Courier’s wide circulation — more than 350,000 at its peak — enabled it to tackle tough stories such as racism in entertainment, discrimination in government and racial inequality in the legal system that the mainstream media didn’t cover.

"It’s the Pittsburgh Courier, it’s the Chicago Defender, the Michigan Chronicle — these papers are covering in a very aggressive and central way the growth of the civil rights era," Williams said.

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