Silver Screen Series: The Black Press: Soldiers without Swords

Join us on Monday, January 17th at 7:00 PM ET for a screening of The Black Press: Soldiers without Swords, followed by a live Q&A afterwards moderated by Sam Hampton, PhD, a co-founder of Docs in Progress, a documentary filmmaker and nonprofit professional now based in Seattle, WA.

The Black Press: Soldiers without Swords is an engaging historical account that tells the story of the pioneering men and women of the Black press who gave voice to Black America. Soldiers without Swords is the first documentary to provide an in-depth examination of the history and contributions of African American newspapers. Since the early 1800’s Black newspapers have existed in almost every major city in the U.S.

Numerous key black reporters, publishers and photo journalists are interviewed in the film, shortly before their deaths. Nelson conducted one of the last on camera interviews with John Sengstacke, publisher of the only daily Black newspaper still in production, the Chicago Defender; and with the late Charles "Teenie" Harris, retired staff photographer with the Pittsburgh Courier. Other prominent Black journalists interviewed are Vernon Jarrett, former reporter with Chicago Defender, Chicago Tribune, and the Chicago Sun Times and Edward "Abie" Robinson, former reporter with the California Eagle.

The 90-minute film is divided into five parts:

No Longer Shall Others Speak For Us provides an overview of the growth and influence of the Black press, from the founding of Freedom’s Journal in 1827 to the turn of the century.

Standing Up for the Race examines the role of Black journalists like Chicago Defender publisher Robert Abbott in advancing the "Great Migration" of blacks from the South. The film shows how attempts to ban the sale of the Defender from many southern cities were thwarted by a network of Pullman porters who managed to distribute the paper clandestinely.

A Separate World focuses on the years between 1920 and 1930. According to journalist Abie Robinson, editors, writers, cartoonists and photographers were heroes of the Black community, ". . . because we were the only ones able to write and crusade for the things that were in the hearts of Black people."

Treason? compares the disparate coverage of the mainstream press and the Black press concerning the contributions of African Americans during WWII. This section revisits the nearly forgotten "Double V" campaign spearheaded by the Pittsburgh Courier that linked the struggle against fascism abroad to segregation at home, and nearly resulted in Black publishers being indicted for sedition. The "Double V" campaign help to lay the ground work for the Civil Rights Movement to come.

Putting Itself Out of Business discusses the reasons for the decline of the Black press in the last 30 years, and the residual effect on African American communities.


January 17, 2022 at 7:00pm - 10pm


Via Zoom


Lynn O'Connell ·