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ISO: History of African American Printers

From the contact form:

I am a graduate student at DePaul University and I am researching the history of African American printers in the U.S. I wonder if your organization could offer any assistance or guidance for my research. 



  1. Paul Moxon, Website Editor 28 February, 2018 at 10:56 pm

    Start here: The African-American Press Timeline: 1827 to 1895

  2. Your query is actually fertile ground for research, as scholarship in this area has been lacking, for the most part, up until very recently. The problem lies in one’s ability to decouple the role of the “publisher” from that of the “printer.” To be brief, the majority of the past scholarship in this area has dealt with African American periodical press publishers. These publishers were typically compelled to outsource the printing labor in their operations as a result of a combination of factors that included the high upfront costs associated with purchasing and maintaining their own printing presses and white hostility toward both African American literacy and trade practice. It was a hostility that could escalate to the point of violence, as evidenced by the arson attack of two of the nation’s earliest African American print shops. On the other side of the spectrum, however, it is conceivable that in the cases where some of the manual labor in Northern Anglo-American print shops was done by workers of African descent, much of that history would have been lost to forces of historical erasure as a consequence of the absence of archival records. Another challenge to grapple with in pursuing this research is the transnational, diasporic element of the African American publishing industry. That stated, any research in this area should at least recognize some of the first African American pioneers of the print trade. Here is a short list of some important figures who, in most cases, worked as printers as well as publishers: David Ruggles (1810-1845),Thomas Hamilton (1823-1865); Grafton Tyler Brown (lithographer, 1841-1918); Marcus Garvey (1887-1940); and The Murray Brothers Press (started in 1921).

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