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African American Foreign Correspondents

A History

Elizabeth Spencer

Publication Year: 2003

Though African Americans have served as foreign reporters for almost two centuries, their work remains virtually unstudied. In this seminal volume, Jinx Coleman Broussard traces the history of black participation in international newsgathering. Beginning in the mid-1800s with Frederick Douglass and Mary Ann Shadd Cary—the first black woman to edit a North American newspaper—African American Foreign Correspondents highlights the remarkable individuals and publications that brought an often-overlooked black perspective to world reporting. Broussard focuses on correspondents from 1840 to modern day, including reporters such as William Worthy Jr., who helped transform the role of modern foreign correspondence by gaining the right for journalists to report from anywhere in the world unimpeded; Leon Dash, a professor of journalism and African American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who reported from Africa for the Washington Post in the 1970s and 1980s; and Howard French, a professor in Columbia University’s journalism school and a globetrotting foreign correspondent. African American Foreign Correspondents provides insight into how and why African Americans reported the experiences of blacks worldwide. In many ways, black correspondents upheld a tradition of filing objective stories on world events, yet some African American journalists in the mainstream media, like their predecessors in the black press, had a different mission and perspective. They adhered primarily to a civil rights agenda, grounded in advocacy, protest, and pride. Accordingly, some of these correspondents—not all of them professional journalists—worked to spur social reform in the United States and force policy changes that would eliminate oppression globally. Giving visibility and voice to the marginalized, correspondents championed an image of people of color that combatted the negative and racially construed stereotypes common in the American media. By examining how and why blacks reported information and perspectives from abroad, African American Foreign Correspondents contributes to a broader conversation about navigating racial, societal, and global problems, some of which we continue to contend with today.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Series: Media and Public Affairs

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-x

This book began as a result of a conversation that John “Jack” Maxwell Hamilton and I had when he was working on his history of American foreign reporting. Jack, who was dean of the Manship School of Mass Communication at the time, asked if I had ever heard of John “Rover” Jordan, an African American foreign ...

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pp. 1-10

Mary Ann Shadd Cary was a self-assured and fiercely independent twenty-eight-year-old when she headed north to Canada almost one year to the day after passage of the Compromise of 1850, which strengthened the Fugitive Slave Act. The measure, aimed at minimizing regional strife as the United States expanded westward, appeased slave owners by allowing armed pursuit ...

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1. The Genesis

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pp. 11-31

When former slave Frederick Douglass boarded the Cambria steamship for Great Britain on a hot August day in 1845, he was on his way to becoming the first African American foreign correspondent. Douglass was well aware that the issue of slavery transcended national borders. His travels and speeches in the United States had left him hungry to take his message farther. Great ...

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2. Changing Landscape: No Longer an Individual Endeavor

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pp. 32-39

T. Thomas Fortune traveled to Manila in February 1903 on a special assignment for the Department of the Treasury. His friend Booker T. Washington had convinced President Theodore Roosevelt to select the veteran journalist and race leader to gather information about trade in the Philippines. “I did not find one of them begging bread in Manila or in the ...

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3. The Quest to Cover Our Fighting Men

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pp. 40-52

In August 1914, Carl James Murphy boarded the steamship Bremen in Baltimore, bound for the University of Jena in Germany. Soon after he arrived, he turned his attention to the tense situation in Europe, where the world was on the verge of its first major war. The Afro-American ran his letters home as front-page stories...

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4. Compelled to Scour the World: The Interwar Years

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pp. 53-62

With fifteen hundred dollars from the National Association for the Advance-ment of Colored People (NAACP) to cover his expenses, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois sailed for France on December 1, 1918. “I did not talk—I went,”1 the editor of the organization’s magazine The Crisis noted years later. Du Bois had acted swiftly when he learned of an unexpected opportunity to ...

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5. Robert Abbott Finds a Racial Paradise

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pp. 63-71

As a Negro and a product of North American traditions, my natural, logical reaction was the desire to reach some clear, positive conclusions as to the real depth and extent of the Brazilian democratic spirit or to what degree it was truly inclusive of the Negro. This was Robert Sengstacke Abbott’s explanation for why he had traveled to South America in 1923 to gather news.1 He began his journey with an agenda, ...

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6. The 1930s: A Defining Decade

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pp. 72-90

In 1932, Homer Smith became the Chicago Defender’s correspondent from Russia. Using the pen name Chatwood Hall, he filed primarily from Moscow but also from Kiev, Odessa, and other locales. The Defender had made foreign coverage routine by establishing the foreign news service in the 1920s. Publisher Robert S. Abbott wanted the Defender to be the leader in the black press during ...

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7. Getting the Inside Information: The Italian-Ethiopian War

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pp. 91-100

The 1930s had barely begun when Tafari Makonnen was crowned Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia. The country had a rich history that dated back more than two thousand years, and Selassie claimed direct descent from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. His ascent in the independent black state was a source of pride for blacks’ psyche. Black editors viewed coverage of ...

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8. A Racialized View of the Spanish Civil War

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pp. 101-106

And well have the American Negro volunteers realized that the first stage of the world fight for racial justice lies right here and now in Spain. Negroes in the states have to be rightly proud of Salaria Kee and of the colored volunteers over here. They are an honor With these words, Nancy Cunard offered one reason the black press covered the ...

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9. World War II: The Fight for the Right

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pp. 107-123

On July 18, 1942, the front page of the Pittsburgh Courier promoted its first black foreign correspondent of World War II, Edgar Rouzeau. On his way back to the Egyptian front, Rouzeau was “assembling stories on what America’s black fighters [were] doing for Democracy abroad and at home.”1 He had set the tone for his correspondence in an article on the causes of the war and its ...

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10. Spotlight on Africa

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pp. 124-141

When Ebony was founded half a century ago, Africa was still viewed in White America as the Dark Continent occupied largely by savage tribes and ferocious jungle beasts. Little, if anything, was written in the U.S. press about the ravages and exploitation visited on Africa and its people by greedy European colonialists and even less about the valiant struggle waged by ...

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11. Tan Yanks in an Integrated Military

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pp. 142-155

James Hicks and Albert Hinton boarded an airplane in the United States on their way to cover the Korean conflict in 1950, but only one of them made it. Hinton, the managing editor of the Norfolk Journal and Guide in Virginia, was to report for that weekly and other black publications that relied heavily on the Negro Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) news service. Hicks was ...

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12. Defiance in the Name of Press Freedom

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pp. 156-173

On a cold Christmas Eve in 1956, William Worthy Jr. went to his room on the Harvard University campus, where he was a Nieman fellow, and found a visa and a cablegram had been slid under his door. The cable invited Worthy to travel to China as a reporter. He hastened to Boston’s Logan Airport before the State Department could get on his trail and flew to Tokyo. From there he ...

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13. Vietnam: A Turning Point

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pp. 174-191

...“Our man in Vietnam is a woman,”1 the Chicago Daily Defender announced on December 17, 1966. The newspaper had dispatched Ethel Payne to cover the war in Southeast Asia. Publisher John Sengstacke had called Payne, who was based in Washington. She flew to Chicago to discuss the proposition. “[I]t would be a unique thing. ...

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14. In the Mainstream: Africa and Beyond

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pp. 192-203

Leon Dash of the Washington Post spent most of the early 1970s trekking through Africa with guerrillas who were trying to wrest Angola from Portu-guese colonial rule. Dash was not viewed as a foreign correspondent but as a reporter who had seized the chance to have a front-row view of Angola’s march toward independence. He made two private trips and one sanctioned by the ...

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pp. 204-212

When I began this project, the names of only two black foreign correspon-dents came to mind—CBS’s Ed Bradley and CNN’s Bernard Shaw. Bradley’s reports from Vietnam during that war and his subsequent reports from abroad, and Shaw’s gripping reporting from under a hotel bed in Baghdad during Operation Desert Storm still conjure up images of daring and dogged pursuit of ...


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pp. 213-252


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pp. 253-268

E-ISBN-13: 9780807150559
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807150542

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: Media and Public Affairs

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • African American press -- History.
  • African American journalists -- History.
  • Foreign news -- United States -- History.
  • Foreign correspondents -- United States -- History.
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