Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

April 26, 1930

Guest post by Ethan Hill, undergraduate student at Iowa State University.

The title says it all, “Negroes Barred from Theatres at New Castle.” On April 26, 1930, the Indianapolis Recorder was displaying a story about the discrimination of African Americans in the town of New Castle, a neighboring town just east of Indianapolis. In particular, it was displaying the exclusion of African Americans from the theaters and other public places, and what they were trying to do to fix it.

For African Americans who were looking to improve their situation, this had obviously been a topic that was in the media for a while. In New Castle, plans had already been made the previous winter to discuss the situation of African Americans "with a view of remedying the objectionable social and industrial situation among the colored people.” An NAACP-sponsored meeting was set up and held in the town with important blacks and whites attending alike. Important people including senators and representatives attended in order to hear about the information being put out, including factories not employing colored people and African Americans being barred from public places. This event also was a way to try and bring “colored and white citizens of the community together for the purpose of informing them of the work of the organization.”

The one thing that surprised me about this article was that there were white citizens who said that they were not aware that African Americans were being barred from public places. “It was revealed that many white citizens of New Castle were not aware of the fact that negroes were being barred from the theatres and public houses, and that the factories were not offering employment to colored people.” I found this interesting because how could they not be aware of this seeing that there were no African Americans in these places?

This article relates to what I have learned previously about African-American history, because it shows that even when they were not in the South they were still being discriminated against. Many African Americans fled north to escape persecution in the South only to find that it was also still going on in the North as well. The struggle shown in this article relates to this because it is just one of the many cases where African Americans were barred from going into certain establishments, both in the South and the North. The story also relates because it showed the continuing fight and collaboration taking place in order to try and obtain the equality they deserved.

African Americans continued to be discriminated against as they moved north, though it might not have been as harsh as in the South. African Americans were not getting jobs at factories during the Great Depression; jobs were hard to come by, and the management of the plants, probably being white, looked upon white workers more favorably, so they were the ones that got hired. I was intrigued by this part of the article because finding jobs is one of the main reasons that African Americans were migrating to the north, and they still were having troubles finding them.

Since it was the first time I’ve ever worked with African-American newspapers, I can say I was very interested in seeing what types of topics that they would contain. From what I read, they seem to be very similar to white newspapers, with the only difference being they might cover topics that the white newspaper might not cover. For instance, racial problems concerning African Americans were displayed in the African-American newspapers while white newspapers may not have displayed them at all, or displayed them with a different bias. This has been a great learning experience, and reading these newspapers has given me new perspectives and insight on the past and the everyday life of people in the cities, both white and black. 

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