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Black Newspapers And The Kansas City Call During The Civil Rights Movement

Flatland KC
As protesters took to the streets during the Civil Rights Movement, black newspapers incuding 'The Kansas City Call' were struggling to develop a unified voice for African Americans.

As the movement for equal rights grew during WWII, an internal struggle was underway among black publications to see who would be the voice of African Americans. 

In 1941, representatives from black publications around the nation gathered to form The National Negro Publishers Association, now called the National Newspaper Publishers Association, of which The Kansas City Call was a founding member.

The Call, Kansas City's prominent black newspaperwas established in 1919 by Chester A. Franklin. Its managing editor was Lucile Bluford.

“At various times either Mr. Franklin or Ms. Bluford sat on the executive board of that organization, so The Call played a very significant role. They were always in attendance, they were always at the meetings, and working with the other editors to craft a message and a voice for African American publishers,” Earnest L. Perry Jr. told Steve Kraske on Up To Date.

Perry is a professor of journalism at the University of Missouri. His area of study is the history of the black press.

At the time The Call came into being, black newspapers had either of two distinct voices— those who favored accommodation of Separate but Equal, and those who spoke out about the injustices of the time.

The Kansas City Call was a Midwest African American newspaper... it was seen as a militant newspaper for where it was,” said Perry. 

The merging of these voices in the black press helped to create a unified front in the battle for equal rights throughout the 60s. 

According to Perry, black publications today could learn from their history. In light of events over the past year, he thinks there is a need for traditional press to link with social media and grassroots journalists to create an authentic voice for African Americans across the country.


Steve Kraske is the host of KCUR's Up To Date. Follow him on Twitter @stevekraske.
In addition to being KCUR's afternoon newscaster, Lisa Rodriguez covers city hall and other news around Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.