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20th Century Ethnic Newspapers

Posted on by Nick Okrent

Writing about the Black Press, Dr. Kim Gallon (GSAS, 2009 and former Africana Studies librarian at Penn Libraries) writes that it countered the mainstream press "by exposing truths that 'objective' reporting overlooked. It prided itself on its ability to thread the needle between objectivity as a form of covering news and shedding light on fundamental challenges to American democracy, especially when they originated from racism."  This is broadly true of ethnic presses: they express social, economic, political and intellectual experiences of groups that are repressed, ignored or misunderstood by the mainstream media.  Consequently, ethnic newspapers are of extraordinary importance to scholars and students.

Access to these newspapers has long been available on microfilm from resources such as the Center for Research Libraries.  For over a decade, Ethnic Newswatch has provided online access to ethnic newspapers from the present back to the late 20th century.  For earlier years, however, little coverage has been available.  Archival runs of major African American and Jewish American newspapers are available in Proquest Historical Newspapers.  Most recently, we added the Michigan Chronicle, with its coverage of organized labor, Motown and the upper Midwest.

Now the Penn Libraries have added two online collections of ethnic newspapers:

Which include hundreds of rare titles, many with short runs and low circulation.  Some of these titles were once only available by visiting special collections; others were only available on microfilm.  They are now searchable and browsable online through the Penn Libraries.