Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

Project Motivation and Methodology

Why Black Quotidian?

When I was doing my dissertation research, which lead to The Nicest Kids in Town, I was fascinated by the tremendous variety of news published in The Philadelphia Tribune. As I searched for articles related to civil rights, music, television, education, I also came across stories about high school sports, police brutality, and beauty pageants; advertisements for Pepsi and living room furniture; and sensationalized crime stories.  By the time I was doing research for my second book, Why Busing Failed, the Philadelphia Tribune and several other blacks newspapers were digitized and made available at institutions that subscribed to ProQuest's Historical Black Newspaper Collection.  While this allowed me to find and analyze over ten thousand newspaper articles on school desegregation, I missed the experience of working with microfilm reels and stumbling across interesting stories I had not been searching for.  I appreciate that digitization makes it possible to search millions of articles with high levels of precision, but with Black Quotidian I hope to reintroduce the feelings of randomness and surprise that I associate with my first encounters with black newspapers.

I am approaching this project as an experiment, without a clearly defined methodology for selecting articles for the daily posts.  In some cases I will search for historical articles related to specific people or events (e.g., the holiday honoring Martin Luther King's birthday or the Little Rock School Integration Crisis).  On other dates I will browse a random newspaper and write about whatever strikes me as interesting (e.g., what did people read about in the Los Angeles Sentinel on May 22, 1947?).  Likewise, some guest contributors will pick articles related to their research, while others will write about stories that are new to them.  

I want Black Quotidian to be interesting, thought provoking, and fun.  I hope it will lead more people to use black newspapers in their research and teaching.  And I hope the stories featured here will spark the imaginations of scholars and students, leading to new and unexpected research on African-American history.   

In terms of permissions, I requested and received permission from ProQuest and the black newspapers to use a selection of digital newspaper articles for this project.  I have also written about the project for ProQuest's blog (here and here).

This page references:

  1. Philadelphia Tribune - October 12, 1957
  2. LA Sentinel - June 15, 1972