Co-written by Camille Peters.
In celebration of Black Culture Fest, the newest exhibit at the Oakland History Center tells the story of the Black Press in Oakland. Featuring selections from the Oakland History Center, Magazines & Newspapers Division, and AAMLO, the exhibit illustrates the long history of Black newspapers and Black journalists in Oakland, from the 1860s to the present day.
The Black press in the United States began in New York City with the first issue of Freedom's Journal, published on 16 March 1827—a few months before slavery was set to be abolished in the state. "We wish to plead our own cause," wrote the editors. "Too long have others spoken for us."
At its core, the Black press has always been a form of resistance: countering the harmful narratives of the dominant culture, chronicling a different reality, amplifying Black voices. Resistance is the common thread running through the history of the Black press, even across a wide political spectrum. This exhibit traces that history in Oakland, from the first Bay Area publication to the present, highlighting newspapers, publishers, and print journalists that have shaped representation of the local Black community.
Stop by the Main Library (2nd Floor) and learn more about:
- Oakland's first Black newspaper, the Illustrated Guide (1892-1900), the “official organ of the Afro-American League of Alameda County"
- Delilah L. Beasley, groundbreaking journalist and historian who wrote the weekly "Activities Among Negroes" column for the Oakland Tribune and the seminal book The Negro Trail Blazers of California (1919)
- How the skyrocketing Black population in the East Bay gave rise to a multitude of print publications in the latter half of the 20th Century
- Local Black leadership and firsts in the field, including Morrie Turner's syndicated comic strip "Wee Pals," Thomas & Velda Berkley's founding of the Oakland Post, and Robert Maynard at the helm of the Tribune
- The immediate and lasting influence of the Black Panther Party newspapers
In addition to the many photographs and original newspapers on display, we have incorporated several online resources via QR codes. Here are the links to oral histories, videos, discussions and more that will augment your understanding of the Black press in Oakland:
- An exploration of the life of Delilah L. Beasley with Dorothy Lazard, former Oakland History Center librarian
- Watch oral histories of Black journalists whose careers started in the 1960s and 1970s, collected by the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, here
- Read The Flatlands online
- Take a tour of Seventh Street with longtime Oakland Post Managing Editor Tom Nash
- Listen to an interview with Royal Towns, editor of the Prince Hall Masonic Digest - and the first African American to become chief operator of the Oakland Fire Department
You can search historic Black newspapers outside of Oakland through ProQuest's Black Newspaper Collection. Be sure to check out AAMLO's study guide on Newspapers and Journalists.