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The Ohio Black Press in the 19th Century


This project introduces the Ohio Black press in the 19th century so that we can understand early Black Midwesterners' civic engagements that have defined American democracy in practice. People of African descent in the 19th-century U. S. did not perceive freedom limited to a government-sanctioned right, as the Constitution described the body of citizens too vaguely to ensure their civil rights. Rather, against systemic oppressions in the country, African Americans envisioned freedom involved with communal works that would actualize ideals of a democratic society. This project offers informative and interpretative descriptions of the newspapers to show dynamic communal life of 19th-century Black Ohioans. It also uses quantitative methods with data and digital visualization to make explicit what, like early Black communities in the Midwest, has been considered hard to trace because of the lack of records. In doing so, the project shows one example of how African Americans legitimized their sovereignty by demonstrating civic qualification as a response to and beyond the government system that had failed to maintain its constitutional promise on human rights.


This project provides the extant copies from 17 remaining ones out of the 25-known Black-owned periodicals in 19th-century Ohio. They are obtained from archives hosted at Columbus Metropolitan Library, Cleveland Public Library, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cincinnati History Library and Archives, American Antiquarian Society, Library of Congress, and Ohio History Connection"Newspapers" offers digital images of each newspaper and its historical background that has been corroborated through cross-examinations on various historical documents and scholarly works. "Data" about the newspapers consist of three parts: contents and topics, reprinted and quoted periodicals, and advertisements. Additional datasets and visualizations are offered on this site and Ohio Black Press github page



The Ohio Black Press in the 19th Century project is committed to ensuring digital accessibility for people with disabilities. We are committed to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)’s principles of creating web pages that are: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. As of 2021, this project is still in development, but we hope to continually apply the most relevant accessibility standards and employ formal evaluation methods and quality assurance of the site based on WCAG’s international standards. This project also adheres to and continues to support the accessibility goals stated in the Omeka S documentation. Please contact us if you encounter accessibility barriers on the Ohio Black Press in the 19th Century.


The Ohio Black Press in the 19th Century does neither own nor assert any copyright in the archival contents of this site. The digitized newspapers have been reproduced and made digitally available on this site based on their public domain status in the United States. As this digital project contains embedded technical functionality, individuals interested in reproducing any content in a publication or website or for any commercial purpose must first receive permission from the Ohio Black Press. If you would like to cite the project, you are encouraged to use the following notation:
Woo, J. (2022). The Ohio Black Press in the 19th Century.  


This project started with my attendance at the Colored Conventions Project symposium in 2015, which allowed me to meet with wonderful scholars of Black print culture including P. Gabrielle Foreman, Eric Gardner, Jim Casey, Derrick Spires, and many others whose scholarships have shaped mine. I could develop this project on a digital platform because of the Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowship (2019 and 2020) and NEH/Mellon’s Digital Publication Fellowship (2021). In collaboration with the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, I received institutional support, especially thanks to T. Mills Kelly, God's Will Katchoua, and Jason Heppler.  I also owe librarians at LCCC's Bass Library and Paige Morgan at the University of Delaware Library for their dedication to digital scholarship. Above all, Khan Tran at Ohio State, Laura Brannan Fretwell at George Mason, and Michelle Byrnes at Penn State offered me time and knowledge to build this project's foundation. Finally, I am grateful to Black journalists, newspaper agents, printers, subscribers, archivists, librarians, and scholars, who  see the value of the Black press.