Penning a Legacy: The Black Press Continues the Movement During Black History Month

Veteran marketing executive Cathy Nedd, president of the Real Times Media News Group, speaks on the power of the Black press.



It’s 2023 and Black History Month is more important now than ever since it was officially recognized by then-President Gerald Ford in 1976 when he called upon people to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”  

The Black History Month’s theme this year, “Black Resistance in The Past, Present, and Future,” gives many an opportunity for reflection to recognize the culture, the beauty, the swag, and the connection Black people have despite the continued efforts of structural racism, built-in discriminatory efforts and news reports that say otherwise.  

The need to celebrate this month every year is a testament to the importance of recognizing the power that is Blackness 365.  

Word in Black Health Reporter Alexa Imani Spencer told the Michigan Chronicle that she writes Black history (in the making) every day and the month of February is “still relevant.”  


“Because in the past, present, and surely in the future, Black people continue to move the needle forward in the world in a unique way,” she said. “Our fight for civil rights helps communities of all kinds gain access to a better quality of life, which we all deserve to experience regardless of race, gender, or class. For a long time, we’ve sacrificed our lives to ensure this happens.” 

Honoring this month doesn’t happen in a silo either.  

Writing about Black excellence in every shape and form is a privilege for all journalists and reporters, and an honor that is especially shared among the Black press who carry the weight of this banner very seriously.  


The Michigan Chronicle, an historical paper in Detroit, has been on the frontlines since its founding in 1936 by then-owner John H. Sengstacke.  


Sengstacke felt that there was a market for a weekly Black-owned newspaper published for Detroit, and in April 1936, he sent Lucius Harper to Detroit to establish a newspaper for him. In June, Sengstacke recalled Harper to Chicago and replaced him with Louis E. Martin.  


In 1936, Martin was hired as a reporter by the Chicago Defender, the city’s major Black newspaper. After only a few months working on the Defender, Sengstacke gave Martin a new job. Martin left Chicago for Detroit on June 6, 1936. When he arrived and assumed control of the paper, the Chronicle had a paid circulation of about 900. By 1940 the paper had a weekly circulation of 15,000, and in 1945, circulation topped 25,000. Martin would stay at the Chronicle for 11 years.  


As quoted in an article celebrating the Michigan Chronicle’s 75th anniversary, found on the paper’s website, Martin explained, “Fresh out of college with no experience, I was shocked to learn how tough a break Black workers got in the foundries of the auto plants and how insecure men felt about jobs in the factories,” He added that a Black worker could be fired for voting “the wrong way” or for any trivial matter that offended his boss.   

The Chronicle garnered national attention for its “radical” approach to politics.    

“The Michigan Chronicle, founded in 1936, is (one of) the longest surviving African American-owned newspaper. But it is not the first,” Jamon Jordan, Detroit historian, wrote of the paper previously. “Many African American-owned newspapers have come and gone – The Michigan Citizen, the Detroit Tribune, and many others.    

“But all of these newspapers, including The Chronicle, stand on the shoulders of Detroit’s first  African American newspaper – the Detroit Plaindealer.”   

The Plaindealer was founded in 1883 by four prominent African American men: Benjamin and Robert Pelham Jr., William H. Anderson, and Walter Stowers. The newspaper ran for a decade and, like many abolitionist newspapers of the mid-1800s, did more than just report on current events; it also advocated on behalf of the Black community like exposing Jim Crow in the South, Jordan noted.   

The Michigan Chronicle, and its sister papers the Chicago Defender, the Atlanta Daily World, and the New Pittsburgh Courier – all owned by Real Times Media (RTM) – continue to carry the torch of chronicling Black lives for decades, through the good and the bad, a duty several RTM employees shared their thoughts on.  

Veteran marketing executive Cathy Nedd, president of the Real Times Media News Group, told the Michigan Chronicle that she loves her job because she gets to be a part of the voice of our community.  

“I get to be a champion for causes that matter to us. I get to be a part of the machine that ensures that news and information that may otherwise not reach our community is indeed shared,” Need said adding that during Black History Month it is nice to amplify those stories all the more.  

“Even though the accomplishments of African Americans should be shared all throughout the year, it is nice to take time out of our busy schedules to recognize the many African Americans who have blazed a trail for others to follow. We never want to forget the contributions of some of Detroit’s own heroes like Mayor Coleman A. Young, the Honorable Damon Keith, or Councilwoman Erma Henderson, to name a few.” 

Atlanta-bred journalist Amir “A.R.” Shaw, executive editor of the Atlanta Daily World told the Michigan Chronicle that the Black press has always served as a “pillar of the Black community.”  

“With the distinction of being the first Black-owned daily publication in America, Atlanta Daily World (ADW) has provided a voice for the Black community for 95 years while also setting a standard when it comes to journalism and media coverage,” Shaw said adding that there have been multiple ground-breaking moments throughout ADW’s history including in 1945

“ADW continues to make history and impact culture. In 2022, it was an honor to represent ADW as the only reporter from a Black-owned publication to cover the NBA’s first game in Abu Dhabi,” Shaw said. “The Black media will always play a role in highlighting Black stories and voices. And the Atlanta Daily World will continue this legacy.”  

Dyanna Knight Lewis, regional vice president of Real Times Media (RTM), and Chicago Defender publisher, told the Michigan Chronicle that representing one of America’s oldest black newspapers (founded by Robert Sengstacke Abbott in 1905 and started with an investment of only $5) “exemplifies excellence.”  

Given that the paper got its start during Jim Crow and The Great Migration and continues to feature news and information about the Black community and spotlights Black History 365 days a year is a story in and of itself, Lewis said.  


“The Chicago Defender is known for being the defender of the African American community,” Lewis said. “The Chicago Defender was the information vehicle instrumental in the facilitation of movement of over a hundred thousand Blacks from the south to the north. The Chicago Defender is telling our stories on multiple media platforms as only we can.”

Michigan Chronicle Digital Anchor Andre Ash agrees.  

“The positive focus of our community wasn’t always a focus of mainstream media,” the longtime, well-known reporter said. “So, you needed the Black press to be able to be the voice to tell our stories that you weren’t going to hear anywhere else. The Black press is important because we shine a light and give a voice that may not be given elsewhere.”  

New Pittsburgh Courier Editor and Publisher Rod Doss told the Michigan Chronicle that Black stories “need to be told” as they continue to inspire and educate communities. 

“It was their stories that lifted communities by showcasing the many talented and gifted individuals whose stories were only told in the Black press,” Doss said. It was their stories that captured the beautiful culture of the Black community and the philanthropy of churches, sororities, and fraternities that helped to provide college scholarships for so many of our youth. And yes, it was their stories that gave us the many heroes and heroines that led the way in civil rights, sports, the arts, and politics.”  

About Post Author

From the Web

Skip to content