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Jun 9

African-American Newspapers in Champaign-Urbana

Posted on Wednesday, June 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

African-Americans in Champaign-Urbana have a rich tradition of self-representation through newspapers, newsletters and independent presses. Unfortunately, little of this rich heritage has been preserved in its original. Most newspapers prior to the the 1980s survive only in often hard-to-read microfilm, which frequently make the photographs featured in the newspapers almost completely unuseable, and furthermore, the newspapers that have been preserved are incomplete and partial. Vast amounts of this local heritage have not been saved in any publicly accessible archives, library or museum. This post represents a first attempt to list the African-American newspapers that have been published over the years in Champaign-Urbana, with the hope that private citizens that have more complete and original runs of these newspapers will allow our eBlackChampaign-Urbana summer interns to digitize your personal collection to celebrate this heritage with everyone, now and into the future, and to further inspire a new generation to continue the tradition of an African-American Press in Champaign-Urbana. If you have information to share on these newspapers e-mail

1) ca. 1910s-1930s? – Unidentified African-American Newspaper published near North First Street -  – No existing copies in any area library or archive – Source of citation: word-of-mouth.

2) 1941-1971. Illinois Times. Publisher: Edgar G. Harris. Weekly newspaper.
This newspaper began publication in Danville and moved its operations to Champaign, near Stadium and Neil, in 1949. Harris, who was a B’ahai, published on a wide range of issues relating to African-American life in Champaign-Urbana, and featured recurring columns by black ministers, notices on social events, and news on city issues.
Where to find this newspaper? Microfilm copies of A PARTIAL RUN of this newspaper (some issues from 1949-1954,1960-1967) exist at the History Library, University of Illinois Library (UIUC); and the Champaign County Historical Archives (CCHA), Urbana Free Library; some issues also exist at the Doris K. Wylie Hoskins Archive at the Early American Museum (EAM), Champaign County Forest Preserve District. No complete run has been saved, and no original copies have been identified.
Sources for more information: The Black Press in Illinois,, and vertical file on “Illinois Times” at Champaign County Historical Archives.

3) 1962-1994 (possibly published until later). Urban League of Champaign County Newsletter. Irregular publication.
This newsletter of the Urban League also featured articles and stories on general issues facing local African-Americans. A partial run of the newsletter can be found at CCHA, which also has the Urban League Archives.

4) ca. 1967-1969. Plain Truth. Publisher: Roy Williams. Irregular publication.
This newspaper, which was the first black power publication in Champaign-Urbana, scandalized the mainstream press when it first appeared for its aggresive tone and language. Microfilm issues exist at the History Library, UIUC; and the CCHA. Some original issues are also at CCHA.
Sources for more information: Vertical File on the Plain Truth at CCHA.

5) ca. 1970-1973. N.Y.D.D. (Black Community News) and Community Advocacy Depot (C.A.D.) Newsletter. Publishers: John Lee Johnson and others. Irregular publication.
These newspaper/newsletters were published out of community centers on the 100-block of North First Street in the early 1970s. Both were highly infused with the rhetoric of black power and striving for social change. The N.Y.D.D. can be found on microfilm at the History Library, UIUC; one original issue from the N.Y.D.D. and three issues from the C.A.D. newsletter can be found in the Frederick D. Moyer Papers, University Archives, UIUC –

6) ca. 1976-1978. Spectrum. Irregular publication.
This newspaper has not yet been investigated. A partial microfilm run of the paper is at the History Library, UIUC.

7) ca. 1976-1993. Ground Level/Ground Level Critique. Irregular Publication. Publisher: Oasis Graphics Arts/Alonzo Mitchell.
Published irregularly between 1976 and 1993 Ground Level Critique took a critical perspective on contemporary issues facing African-Americans. Oasis Graphic Arts, which released the newspaper, also produced a number of other pamphlets on African-American issues in Champaign-Urbana. Only a few issues of this newspaper/magazine are known to exist. One from 1993 is in the African-American Studies Records, University Archives; one from 1976 is in the EAM; one from 1980 is at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library; one issue from 1980 is at the Purdue University Library.

8 ) ca. late 1980s-1990. East Central Illinois Voice/Champaign County Voice/Voice of the Black Community. Irregular publication.
This newspaper has not yet been investigated. A partial microfilm run of the paper is at the History Library, UIUC.

9) 1989-?. Champaign and Vermillion County Herald. Irregular Publication.
Published by Phillip Maurice Rowell, Sr., who also produced a number of independent documentaries on African-American life in Champaign-Urbana, this newspaper sought to put local African-Americans in a postive light. Originals of this newspaper can be found at the History Library and at CCHA.

10) 1995-present. Through The Years. Irregular publication. Published by the Champaign County African American History Committee and the Early American Museum.
This newsletter publishes articles and photographs about African-American history in Champaign-Urbana, and its issues can be found on the EAM’s website, and in print at various area libraries and archives.

11) 1998-2001. Black Thought.
Published by local media person Phillip Maurice Rowell, Sr., who also produced a number of independent documentaries on African-American life in Champaign-Urbana, the Herald sought to be a positive voice for local blacks. Original print publications of the Herald can be found at the History Library, UIUC, and at CCHA.

12) 2006-2007?. Habari Connection. Published by Robert Garrett and Tanya Parker.
Seeking to create dialogue on urban issues in Champaign-Urbana, this small newsletter featured stories on various issues facing African-Americans in Champaign-Urbana. Some issues can be found at CCHA.
UPDATE – 6/18/10: Tanya Parker has started a new publication entitled “Unity In Action” –

In addition to these newspapers, there are many other newsletters of historically African-American churches and other publications that together make up the tapestry of the African-American press in Champaign-Urbana. Help us preserve and celebrate this heritage through digital technology. If you know where we can find originals of these and other newspapers to digitize please contact us at

May 5

Volunteer with eBlackChampaign-Urbana!

Posted on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 in Uncategorized

Help make eBlackCU a collaborative project and volunteer! There are a ton of things to do to make this project better and to help it reach more people. Below are a list of current opportunities:

This list is organized around four types of work: digitization, web development, outreach/marketing, and research:

1) Digitization
a) We have identified a TON of material we haven’t had the time to digitize and get online. If you could dedicate some time to learning how to digitize, how to manage digital files, and how to get them online with proper metadata, this is for you! No prior skills necessary! Estimated time commitment: 3 hours minimum, up to 15 hours (or more)
b) We will also be holding “mass digitization” get-togethers this summer in which we will converge on area archives and as a community help them get their material online and accessible! E-mail us if you want to be informed when these events will take place. Food and drinks after the event will be provided. Estimated time commitment: 5 hours.
c) Community Memory Boxes – We plan to place community memory boxes at a small number of sites in historically African-American institutions in Champaign-Urbana to encourage community members to deposit clippings, announcements, flyers, church programs or other ephemeral, but extremely important, documentation of African-American history as it happens! We need volunteers to help us check the boxes, process the donations, digitize them, and get the word out about the boxes! Estimated time commitment: 5 hours minimum, spread across multiple days…

2) Web Development
a) Metadata – we need to improve our metadata for the eBlackCU digital library. Spend some time learning what is in the library and help us improve access by adding better subject descriptions! Estimated time commitment: 1-10 hours (or more)
b) Design – Help us improve the eBlackCU design! Spend some time looking through the site to find ways to improve it and then implement the changes if you have the tech skills (or send us your comments if you don’t)! Estimated time: 1-10 hours (or more)
c) Installins apps – We would like to install a number of apps and programs on the eBlackCU site that will allow us to geocode data, place interactive time-lines into the site, and more! If you are interested in web development and have some experience this would be perfect for you! Estimated time: 5-15 hours

3) Outreach/Marketing
a) Opening up the University Project – We are publishing a print/digital anthology of research about African-American issues in Champaign-Urbana produced by the University of Illinois in the spirit of trying to make the University more transparent and approachable. We need help e-mailing potential contributors and working with them to get their submissions ready for publication. Interested in publishing or editing? This project is for you! Estimated time commitment: 5 hours.
b) Facebook – We are trying to develop a version of eBlackCU in Facebook! Help us spread the word through the social networks and help us build this collaborative Facebook page. Estimated time commitment: 2-3 hours.
c) Working with teens – We will have six high school interns this summer and will need some help teaching and providing one-on-one support. If you have an interest in cyber-navigating or teaching technology this is right up your alley. Estimated time commitment: Minimum 10 hours commitment.
d) Digitization workshops – We want to help community organizations get their material online! Lend a hand and help us organize and carry-out digitization workshops to support capacity building in community organizations. Estimated Time Commitment: 3-20 hours.

4) Research:
a) Visit area archives in Champaign-Urbana and inventory material that documents African-American history and culture in our community. A list of sources has been prepared and volunteers would be asked to spend a few hours looking at an archives record group to see what is of interest in terms of local African-American. A great way to learn about archives and to do some original research! No prior experience is necessary. Go alone or with a friend! Estimated time commitment: Between 2 hours to 10 hours depending on the size of the archives chosen.
b) Check newspaper microfilm rolls and city directories for data about African-American history in Champaign-Urbana around specific themes. Can be done at the Champaign County Historical Archives, History Library or online, in the case of the Digitized Urbana Courier – ( Estimated time commitment: 1-5 hours depending on research needed.
c) Have an interest in digital exhibits? Take the initiative to research and produce a digital exhibit using the Omeka Content Management System! We can get you started with the tech and orient you in the research and then let you take the initiative and develop an exhibit around your interests. Estimated time commitment: 10-20 hours minimum.

Plus – your suggestion!