Recently, I took part in a webinar being offered for free by the Georgia Genealogical Society on Finding and Using African American Newspapers.  The presenter, Tim Pinnick, has done a great deal of research using newspapers and has created a resource for genealogists researching African Americans in newspapers. Not only does he have a book, has written an article, and created indexes, he has also worked with Family Tree Magazine and created a self paced course on researching using African American Newspapers.

Newspapers, like other facets and facilities, were segregated.  In order to have a voice for their communities, many African American newspapers were created.  Resources included below will help you find if there were any African American newspapers in the areas you are researching.  You never know, you may find mention of your people which could help you break down a brick wall.

According to the presenter, African American researchers only use newspapers to locate obituaries and death notices. However, they, especially African American newspapers, offer so much more.  I encourage you to take a look at the Chronicling America website to determine if your location had a black newspaper. That knowledge is only a click away.


Notes from African American Newspapers Webinar
Presented by Tim Pinnick
Monday, November 21, 2011
Sponsored by the Georgia Genealogical SocietyPresenter’s Website –

Mainstream (White) Newspapers:
*essential to black research
*provides details and clues not found in black newspapers
*full of lengthy obits for their respected black citizens
*will vary widely in their coverage of African American activities
*may carry news of African Americans in segregated columns
*compliment news in African American newspapers

Reality of African Americans and Newspaper research
*Large number won’t use newspapers other than to find an obituary
*Many are unaware of the existence of historical African American newspapers on microfilm

Black Newspapers
**represent one of the few sources where the daily activities of black communities, both large and small are documented.

What Black Newspapers Reveal
*Pre-Civil War status – make sure not to assume that ancestors were slaves…check the 1860 census
*Pre-vital record death details – possibly marriage and birth information as well
*Military service connections
*A window to the community
*Church Affiliations
*Pullman porter identification & more
*Entrepreneurial ancestors – small business ads
*Migration clues – who went where when
*Out of state/county marriages
*African American viewpoints

Answers in African American Newspapers – Article written by presenter in May 2011 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

More benefits of using African American Newspapers:
*Break down brick walls
*Provide many colorful details to your family history

Finding the Newspapers
**Chronicling America:  Historic American Newspapers
–Goto a search engine and search on Chronicling America or click the link above.
–Can look at digitized newspapers.

Printed Finding Aids (the Big three):
**African American Newspapers and Periodicals: A National Bibliography
–A Union list, Ten yrs in the making; 6562 entries
–Periodicals may have an index; check the entry for a particular periodical
–Also includes a Geographic Index
–Copies available at DeKalb County Public Library, Atlanta-Fulton County Library, Cobb County Library, Georgia State University, and Emory University Library.

**Bibliographic Checklist of African American Newspapers by Barbara K. Henritze
–Started out as an article for a society newsletter
–5539 entries from over 100 sources
–Checklist – every entry may not exist today.  Created a list of black newspapers that she heard a mention of
–Copies available at DeKalb County Public Library, Atlanta-Fulton County Library, Cobb County Library, Georgia State University Library , and Emory University Library.

**Extant collection of early black newspapers A research guide to the Black press, 1880 – 1915 by Georgetta Campbell
–Started out as a master’s thesis
–Tried to tackle indexing
–Noted the prevalence of social columns in the newspapers

Point – Greater results will be achieved when all finding aids are used together.

Online Resources
**ProQuest Newspapers
–scattered locations; mainly university libraries

**Accessible Archives Inc.
–Have a nice collection of 19th century African America newspapers

–But can search the database for free and get the citation to pull from another resource.

A Few Indexes
**Chicago Defender archives – search this paper regardless of location because it was a national paper.

**Blacks in Selected Newspapers, Censuses, and Other Sources:  An Index to Names and Subjects by James de T. Abajian
–Copies of this index can be found at Georgia State University Library , and Emory University Library.

Note:  Check the indexes for the name of your ancestors.

Social Columns: the Bread and Butter of Black Newspapers
–Extensions of local news columns
–allows us to reach into other communities beyond the town where the newspaper is being published.
–may also include migration clues

–A Index of 5000+ social columns from African American Newspapers –