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Lecture Covers The History Of Black Newspapers In Kansas

Carla Eckels

Dozens took part in a lecture Wednesday on African-American newspapers and communities in Kansas at the Wichita Public Library downtown.

Historian Aleen Ratzlaff, professor of communications at Tabor College in Hillsboro, says Kansas has a rich history of newspapers that were owned and published by African-Americans and targeted to black readers.

"The emphasis has been on mainstream newspapers, but there were vital publications that were part of the African-American community as well as other ethic communities," he says.

"They provided news, the platform for people to be able to talk about different kind of views; they provided jobs for people in the community."

The Wichita Globe was the first known African-American newspaper published in the city in 1887. Others 1890s include The Kansas Headlight, The People's Friend, The National Baptist World and The National Reflector.

Ratzlaff says the newspapers were active in promoting education, equality and civic activism.

Marvin Stone, Jr.'s cousin started a black newspaper in Wichita in the 1960s called News Hawk. He says the lecture was significant because it's important for everyone to learn about the varied lives of African-Americans.

Stone says he wishes there was more support for The Community Voice, a neighborhood paper.

"I'm hopeful that some young people would look into starting a newspaper because a lot of the information is being lost and black history needs to be celebrated," he says.

More than 50 African-American newspapers from 1878 to the early 1900s can be viewed at the Kansas Historical Society in Topeka. 

Carla Eckels is Director of Organizational Culture at KMUW. She produces and hosts the R&B and gospel show Soulsations and brings stories of race and culture to The Range with the monthly segment In the Mix. Carla was inducted into The Kansas African American Museum's Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2020 for her work in broadcast/journalism.