- The Rise and Fall of the Associated Negro Press: Claude Barnett's Pan-African News and the Jim Crow Paradox by Gerald Horne
From 1919 to 1965, Claude Barnett (1889–1967) operated the Associated Negro Press (ANP), a black news service that, at its peak, distributed press releases to dozens of black newspapers in the United States, the West Indies, and Africa. In 1984, Lawrence Hogan published A Black National News Service: The Associated Negro Press and Claude Barnett, which focused primarily on Barnett's American operation up through the end of World War II. Horne's The Rise and Fall of the Associated Negro Press: Claude Barnett's Pan-African News and the Jim Crow Paradox, which emphasizes Barnett's Pan-Africanism, complements Hogan's work because it highlights the ANP's role in disseminating news articles about Africa and the West Indies. Horne also details the ANP's expansion of its customer base to include many African newspapers after World War II. Based largely on Barnett's papers, including correspondence and news releases, Horne emphasizes two themes: the ANP's focus on blacks in Africa and the West [End Page 421] Indies, and the paradox that the ANP's role aided in undercutting racial segregation and oppression ultimately helped precipitate the end of the news agency.
Although the ANP distributed many articles that detailed the injustices of Jim Crow in the United States and the rapaciousness of European imperialists in Africa, Barnett was no radical. A longtime Republican, Barnett used the ANP to make connections with international businessmen, which helped him promote his public relations business and make other business deals. And Barnett, according to Horne, was not above compromising his "ethics to benefit a favored client" (p. 13). Barnett's relationship with imperialism was also ambivalent. On one hand, Horne shows that the ANP informed "a broad audience about . . . the evils of colonialism, the plight of black people . . . worldwide" (p. 19). But, at the same time, Barnett could be naively uncritical of British imperialism, with the ANP distributing photographs from British Information Services that put British colonial policies in a favorable light.
Some of Horne's assertions outpace his evidence, including his claim for "ANP's critical role as the megaphone of the [civil rights] movement" (p. 8). Similarly, Horne insists that Barnett had great influence in Africa, but it would be more accurate to say that he had great access to African leaders, but no inordinate influence on them, except in promoting his own personal business affairs.
Horne's evidence tends to undercut his claim that Barnett was a Pan-Africanist. Although scholars have defined the term in disparate ways, most would agree that Pan-Africanists typically oppose racism and imperialism, while seeking to unite people of African descent. While the Pan-Africanist Council on African Affairs refused to do business with its colonial enemies, like the Belgians in the Congo, Barnett apparently saw no problem with cozying up to imperialist powers. Can someone who regularly does business with colonial oppressors be accurately portrayed as a Pan-Africanist?
In his analysis of the ANP's demise in the mid-1960s, Horne argues that the key factor was, paradoxically, the success of the civil [End Page 422] rights movement because it created opportunities for black journalists in white-owned media, while increasing coverage of African Americans by the white press. These developments dramatically cut into African American support for the black press. However, Horne's argument is weakened by his admission that despite competition from the Ghana News Service, as late as 1963, the ANP had 150 subscribing newspapers and magazines from Africa and the West Indies, a sign of the news service's viability. In addition, it seems likely that Barnett's aging—he was now in his mid-seventies—and the fact that the ANP was so dependent on its director, may have contributed to the press service's...