The Importance of the Black Press: Defending the Natural Good of Journalism

The black press was a defining time in journalism for underneath the mainstream white press was born the black newspaper. Black newspaper, like the major players in the game, where design to inform, educate and report the stories of the week (or day if a daily). Yet, the focus was on the stories not being reported or shown in the mainstream by focusing on news that is more important to those in the black community. There was a culture that was not being seen nor heard of until the advent of black publications. This is explored amazingly in the PBS documentary The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords and how Black publications basically became a natural good in the world.


Source: PBS Digital Studios/Crash Course Philoshopy

Now, with that said, let’s get into the concept of Natural Law itself, as stated by Hank Green and the Crash Course Philosophy team. Here we explored the Basic Goods, which they are seven of: life, reproduction, educate one’s offspring, seek God, live in society, avoid offense and shun ignorance. It all comes from Thomas Aquinas’ theory, a monk from the 10th century, based upon his own ideology and religious teachings of God. Basically, as Green boiled it down to, “God is awesome and made you. You are awesome, but don’t forget to be awesome.” To use this theory to explain the contributions of the black press is quite a fitting one. Of the main three featured in the documentary (California Eagle, Pittsburgh Courier and The Chicago Defender), the Defender represents natural law theory the best.

Founded by Robert B. Abbott, the Defender had a large base of African-American readers, moreso in the south than in the paper’s native Chicago. About 100,000 copies were in distribution by the end of 1920 and more than half of African-Americans read it each week. It created conversations and allowed black writers to have their voices heard. It shined a lot on all the triumphs of those in the black community at the time. From politics to entertainment, the Defender had it all covered.



The Defender gave its biggest contribution to society back in 1916. The Great Migration happened in part to the Defender’s reporting of the massive number of lynchings in the southern area. In response, they reported on the greater opportunities up north via articles, poetry, lists and even classified ads much to the chagrin of the Jim Crow-dominated south.

The Defender gave a piece of natural goodness to the black community by showing those who wanted a grander life a place to reside, thrive and live out the aforementioned basic goods can get it if they get away from the oppressive nature of the South. This is not without its own problems due to rampant racism, complete with race riots breaking out. Yet, new foundations of neighborhoods and ideas was born out of this migration that extended to Detroit, Michigan. 

The Defender’s legacy has not gone unnoticed as they live on as a digital paper in the present still reporting black-oriented stories and articles. The legacy of the natural good it helped to create alongside other publications such as the Eagle and the Courier still lingers within the press dedicated to covering stories important to those of minority communities. 

One thought on “The Importance of the Black Press: Defending the Natural Good of Journalism

  1. It is really cool that you brought up The Defender! I think that it would be really easy for a lot of folks to try to write off black press and newspapers as something that was needed but not something that still is needed. America is definitely still so incredibly far from being a great place for black communities so I think that relating it back to the present is fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

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