In honor of Black History Month, we have put together a round up of some of our recent and forthcoming titles on the history of the Black press in the United States. This spring, we’re delighted to add E. James West’s book on Ebony and Kim Gallon’s book on Black readership and sexuality in the Black press to our list. Check out these books and articles below and learn more about the significance of the Black press in shaping our media consumption today!

Ebony Magazine and Lerone Bennett Jr.: Popular Black History in Postwar America

By E. James West

Ebony Magazine has played an important role in educating millions of African Americans about their past. Guided by the pen of Lerone Bennett Jr., the magazine’s senior editor and in-house historian, Ebony became a key voice in the popular black history revival that flourished after World War II. Its content helped push representations of the African American past from the margins to the center of the nation’s cultural and political imagination.

Pleasure in the News: African American Readership and Sexuality in the Black Press

By Kim Gallon

Critics often chastised the twentieth-century black press for focusing on sex and scandal rather than African American achievements. Gallon takes an opposing stance—arguing that African American newspapers fostered black sexual expression, agency, and identity. Informative and empowering, Pleasure in the News redefines the significance of the black press in African American history and advancement while shedding light on the important cultural and social role that sexuality played in the power of the black press.

Coming in May 2020

The Rise & Fall of the Associated Negro Press: Claude Barnett’s Pan-African News and the Jim Crow Paradox

By Gerald Horne

Claude Barnett, founder of the Chicago-based Associated Negro Press (ANP), was one of the most influential African Americans of his day. Horne weaves Barnett’s life story through a groundbreaking history of the ANP, including its deep dedication to Pan-Africanism. Yet Horne also confronts Barnett’s contradictions. A member of the African American elite, Barnett’s sympathies with black aspirations often clashed with his ethics and a desire to join the upper echelons of business and government.

An Idea Before Its Time: Charles S. Johnson, Negro Columnist

Journal of Civil and Human Rights

Vol. 4, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 2018)

By Gwyneth Mellinger

In the mid-1940s, Claude Barnett of the Associated Negro Press developed a proposal for Fisk University sociologist Charles S. Johnson to write a weekly column for daily newspapers. Had the plan succeeded as they imagined, Johnson’s column, titled “A Minority View,” would have integrated the opinion pages of the white press.  This paper documents the three-year history of the column, which had the indirect backing of the General Education Board, a Rockefeller-endowed philanthropy.

Race News: Black Journalists and the Fight for Racial Justice in the Twentieth Century

By Fred Carroll

Once distinct, the commercial and alternative black press began to cross over with one another in the 1920s, sparking disputes over radical politics that altered news coverage of some of the most momentous events in African American history. Carroll traces how mainstream journalists incorporated coverage of the alternative press’s supposedly marginal politics of anticolonialism, anticapitalism, and black separatism into their publications.

Newspaper Wars: Civil Rights and White Resistance in South Carolina, 1935-1965

By Sid Bedingfield

Newspaperman John McCray and his allies at the Lighthouse and Informer challenged readers to “rebel and fight”–to reject the “slavery of thought and action” and become “progressive fighters” for equality. Moving the press to the center of the political action, Bedingfield tells the stories of the long-overlooked men and women on the front lines of a revolution. African American progress sparked a battle to shape South Carolina’s civic life, with civil rights activists arrayed against white journalists determined to preserve segregation through massive resistance.

We are pleased to announce Queer Timing: The Emergence of Lesbian Sexuality in Early Cinema by Susan Potter is this year’s winner of the Pop Culture Association’s John Leo and Dana Heller Award for Best Single Work, Anthology, Multi-Authored or Edited Book in LGBTQ Studies. The award will be presented at the annual conference in Philadelphia, April 15-18, 2020.

Congratulations Susan!

We are pleased to announce When the Light is Fire: Maasai Schoolgirls in Contemporary Kenya by Heather D. Switzer has been awarded the Jackie Kirk Outstanding Book Award for scholarly work in gender and education by the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES).

The Jackie Kirk Award annually honors a published book that reflects Kirk’s areas of expertise with emphasis on gender and education and/or education in conflict (fragile states, post-conflict, peace education).

Congratulations Heather!

This month, we’re giving away free ebook copies of Glory in Their Spirit: How Four Black Women Took On the Army During World War II by Sandra M. Bolzenius and a special issue of the Journal of American Ethnic History on multi-ethnic immigration and the US South, including a review of Glory in Their Spirit. 

Before Rosa Parks and the March on Washington, four African American women risked their careers and freedom to defy the US Army over segregation. Bolzenius follows the story of WAC privates Mary Green, Anna Morrison, Johnnie Murphy, and Alice Young and how their actions sparked debates on racism, women in the military, and patriotism. 

The special issue of the Journal of American Ethnic History examines the history of multi-ethnic immigration and the myth of “Southern Exceptionalism.” Scholars explore the complicated relationship between race and nationality, both then and now.

Sign up here to learn more:


We’re celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a flash sale on all African American Studies books! All paperbacks are $15 and e-books are $5. Use Promo Code MLKDAY to get the discount. Hurry! Sale ends January 20.

Start shopping here:


We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Bruno Nettl, beloved author, editor, colleague, and friend. Bruno cofounded the Society for Ethnomusicology, serving as its president (1969-1971) and serving an unparalleled two terms (1962-1966 and 1999-2002) as editor of its journal, Ethnomusicology. The seven books he published with the UI Press include his classic The Study of Ethnomusicology, now in its third edition; Nettl’s Elephant, the title (Bruno’s suggestion) reflecting a whimsical nod to his famous collection of elephant figurines; Heartland Excursions, an ethnomusicological study of that exotic locale, the American school of music; and, most recently, Following the Elephant, a themed collection of articles from the journal, curated and introduced by Bruno.

Bruno Nettl and his wife Wanda, 2014

With the support of many friends, UI Press has established the Bruno Nettl Endowment for Ethnomusicology, which supports publications by the University of Illinois Press in the field — reflecting Bruno’s legacy of mentorship and his care and cultivation of students and their work. For me personally, Bruno provided warm friendship and wise counsel from the moment I assumed responsibility for the Illinois music list from Judy McCulloh. Bruno was a longtime friend of Judy’s, and this photo of Bruno and his wife, Wanda, was taken by Stephen Wade at Judy’s memorial celebration in 2014.

The world is poorer now without Bruno in it. I will always cherish my memories of our friendship. When I last saw him, at his home shortly before Christmas, he was in good spirits and considering ideas for a new book. His wisdom, wit, and profound humanity will be missed.

-Laurie Matheson, Director

We are pleased to announce that Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage by Sowande’ M. Mustakeem has won the Dred Scott Freedom Award in the category Historical Literary Excellence from the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation. The award will be presented on Saturday, March 28, 2020 in St. Louis, Missouri. Slavery at Sea has also been awarded the Wesley-Logan Prize from the American Historical Association in 2017. Congratulations Sowande’!

Annette K. Joseph-Gabriel is an assistant professor of French at the University of Michigan. She recently answered some questions about her book, Reimagining Liberation: How Black Women Transformed Citizenship in the French Empire.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

I wanted to learn more about how African and Caribbean women imagined liberation from
colonial rule. As a student in French I read about Aimé Césaire and Léopold Senghor who were hailed as the founders of the Negritude literary movement and as the architects of
decolonization in Martinique and Senegal. And the more I read the more I wondered about the women who had been sidelined in this history, whose names I knew but not much more than that. So, I started with a very basic question: “where were the women?” Thankfully, that question evolved into more questions about the roles they played, the importance of their work, and the shortcomings of their visions. But it was a starting point that made it clear to me that the dominant narratives I had first encountered are so unsatisfactory because they are partial and limited.

Q: Who were your biggest influences?

I feel very indebted to scholars like Irène d’Almeida, Renée Larrier, and Tracy Sharpley-Whiting whose studies on francophone women’s writings paved the way for me to even see my own work as a possibility. I am also very much influenced by the combined literary, cultural and historical approaches of scholars like Régine Jean-Charles, Marlene Daut, Laurent Dubois and others. Their work models how to read critically.

Q: What is the most interesting discovery you made while researching and writing your book? 

I was so blown away by the unrelenting courage of all of the women I write about in the book. One of the most interesting discoveries I made is that Jane Vialle was a spy in the French Resistance. Reading the interrogation transcripts of an African woman who was interned in a concentration camp during World War II and then broke out of prison gave me goosebumps! She was silent and stoic in the face of unspeakable terror and only wrote more openly about her fear after the war ended.

Q: What myths do you hope your book will dispel or what do you hope your book will help readers unlearn?

The idea that Black women were secondary players in global intellectual and political
movements is unfortunately still prevalent. Sometimes I encounter dismissal of Black women’s work but more often I encounter people who have simply never thought to read seriously or engage substantively with Black women’s writings. I hope that my book will join the ranks of some insightful and much-needed new publications that highlight the centrality of Black women’s writings, activism, and theorizing.

Q: What is the most important idea you hope readers will take away from your book?

There are as many visions of liberation as there are women in the book. I hope readers will take away the one thing that underscored all these varied ideas about how to overthrow imperialism: urgency. The women I write about identified different strategies including poetic expression, voting rights, education, working within government, and working against government through grassroots organizing. But no matter the avenue they chose, they always stated clearly that empire had to be dismantled now.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer scale of oppression in every facet of our lives, to become solelyconcerned with our own survival, to tell ourselves that we are working toward a long game. But the Black women in my book who imagined collective liberation did so even as they fought for their daily survival. For Paulette Nardal it was disability benefits, for Eslanda Robeson it was the right to cross borders freely. They remind me daily that collective liberation does not come after individual survival, it is survival.

Q: What do you like to read/watch/or listen to for fun?

I watch way too much TV. My current obsession is murder mysteries set in idyllic English
villages. It’s a plus if they feature award-winning strawberry scones. There is something oddly relaxing about priests and gardeners running around the English countryside solving murders.

Join us at the Spring Publishing Symposium!

February 14, 2020


Levis Faculty Center

909 West Illinois St., Urbana, IL

Registration will open in January 2020.

Lunch will be provided to those who pre-register by February 7, 2020.


See the current agenda here:

Get started on those new year’s resolutions to read more books with our January ebook giveaway! This month, we’re giving away Todd Haynes by Rob White in our Contemporary Film Directors Series.

Haynes most recently directed Dark Waters (2019) and Carol (2015). Rob White’s highly readable book, which includes a major new interview with Haynes, is the first comprehensive study of the director’s work. Special attention is paid to the fascination with music culture (from the Carpenters to glam rock) and to the rich pattern of allusions to, or affinity with, predecessor filmmakers (Fassbinder, Ophuls, Sirk, and many more). But White’s chief concern is the persistence of a queer impulse to explore social coercion and the possibility that there may be some way of escaping its cruelty.

But don’t take our word for it. The reviews are in:

“An impressive mix of high and low criticism. . . . White manages his various lines of inquiry with precision and a streamlined sense of significance and packing, making this book an excellent addition to the “Contemporary Film Directors” series.”–Slant Magazine

“White’s book is sharp and attentive, especially when the writing is intensified by the focus on an individual frame.”–Sight and Sound

“The first comprehensive study of Haynes’s achievements—is a most welcome addition to film studies. Highly recommended.”–Choice

“The book offers a sound account of a director who remains committed to addressing the shortcomings of contemporary America.”–Journal of American Culture

Still not convinced? Check out this Q&A with Rob White about the book here.

Get your copy here: