Contributor: Olive Vassell

The Black British Press began in the early 20th century and was created as a result of a united black-led push to rid Caribbean and African colonies of Britain’s political dominance.

The Pan-African

The Pan-African was the first publication for and by blacks in Britain and grew out of the first Pan-African Conference in 1900.  Its creator Trinidadian Henry Sylvester Williams also organized the conference. The publication, like those who followed it, tackled several issues of concern to blacks both inside and outside of Britain. Top of the agenda was freedom from British rule, but focus was also given to addressing negative stereotypes of blacks all over the world. It declared in its first issue “no other but a Negro can represent the Negro.”  Though the publication was short-lived, producing probably only one issue, it was soon succeeded by other anti-colonialist organs.

The African Times and Orient Review

The African Times and Orient Review was Britain’s first black political publication.  The magazine was created by Egyptian-born Duse Mohammed Ali and Sierra Leonean journalist and businessman John Eldred Taylor in 1912 following the Universal Race Congress in 1911. Ali, who lived mainly in Britain from 1883 to 1921 wrote in its first edition, the Congress needs “a Pan-Oriental, Pan-African journal at the seat of the British Empire which would lay the aims, desires and intentions of the black, brown, and yellow races—within and without the Empire—at the throne of Caesar.”  With its Fleet Street offices staffed with a multicultural mix, the publication attracted prominent blacks in Britain and beyond including composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor and activist Marcus Garvey. The journal’s international circulation was high with readership among intellectuals in Africa, North America and the Caribbean. It lasted eight years, with its final edition appearing in 1920.

The African Telegraph

The African Telegraph newspaper was founded by businessman John Eldred Taylor in 1914. It too served as an organ for an anti-colonial organization, this time the Society of Peoples of African Origin, created by Taylor. While it focused primarily on West African issues, the publication also exposed racial tensions in Britain with its reports on race riots in Cardiff (Wales) and Liverpool. Explaining its goals, the editor said: “We are here because we ought to be…because it can be demonstrated that the African colonies and all that pertain to their social welfare have received scan justice at the hands of journalism.”  The African Telegraph was forced to close in 1919 after Taylor lost a libel case.

The Keys, a quarterly journal of the League of Coloured Peoples in London, was published regularly from the summer of 1933 until the beginning of the Second World War.  The League attracted black professionals and intellectuals. During the late 1930s, The Keys was a watchdog, decrying and publicizing both injustices committed against blacks in Britain and abroad and advancing ideas for the betterment of blacks. Following an interruption at the beginning of World War II, it was revived as the League of Coloured Peoples Newsletter and focused on issues concerning the new influx of black servicemen and West Indian workers to Britain. It was published well into the 1940s.

The Jamaican Daily Gleaner

A British edition of the Caribbean-based Jamaican Daily Gleaner launched in 1951. The parent company, the Gleaner Company Ltd, was established in 1834 by Joshua and Jacob De Cordova, white Jamaican planters and publishes the Gleaner, a daily morning broadsheet, a Sunday paper and an evening tabloid, The Star. Designed to cater to the Britain’s increasing post-World War II Caribbean population, the Gleaner’s conservative stance earned the paper the nickname, “The Times of the Caribbean.” The newspaper, now named the Weekly Gleaner, still publishes in the UK.

The Caribbean News

The monthly newspaper was launched in 1952 by Billy Strachan, a Jamaican-born member of the League of Coloured Peoples. If the British edition of the Jamaican Daily Gleaner was considered to be conservative, then the Caribbean News was considered left wing in its leanings. Strachan was an active member of the communist party and all the paper’s correspondents, including its editor, Guyanese political activist, Ranji Chandisingh, were communists. In 1956, Trinidad-born activist Claudia Jones took over the reigns at the Caribbean News, before leaving to start another newspaper.

The West Indian Gazette and Afro-Asian Caribbean News

Claudia Jones launched the West Indian Gazette and Afro-Asian Caribbean News in 1958 with the assistance of Amy Garvey, the widow of the famed activist Marcus Garvey. Although Jones did not disguise her political leanings the newspaper’s primary goal was to encourage understanding between Britain’s diverse races, especially between West Indian settlers and the native population. Focusing on the local black community, the paper challenged the prevailing negative view of blacks in the country’s media. It also targeted institutional racism including immigration laws aimed at blacks. The newspaper was published until May 1965, five months after Jones’ death in December 1964.  Jones is also credited with starting the Notting Hill Carnival, now Europe’s largest street festival, in 1959, as a way to help foster relationships between blacks and whites following the Notting hill riots the previous year.

The West Indian World

The West Indian World first appeared on June 11th 1971. During its 14-year existence, the newspaper reported on key topics including the 1974 riots in Notting Hill, London. The publication was founded by business and economics graduate Aubrey Baynes, with the assistance of photographer Caudley George, barrister Rudy Narayan, journalist Lionel Morrison, Tony Douglas and Rhoden Gordon. The newspaper had financial problems within its first six months and Arif Ali, who owned the quarterly West Indian Digest bought out Baynes and took over the paper in its first year. George eventually won control of the paper from Ali and other investors. Felled by financial problems, it eventually folded in 1985.

The Caribbean Times

The Caribbean Times was first published in 1981 by Guyanese native Arif Ali. The paper was not Ali’s first media venture. In 1971, he started a weekly paper, the West Indian Digest with the aim of ‘improving community relations.’ Later Ali would build a publishing group, Hansib Publications, which included, Asian Times and the African Times; Ali would also acquire and lose its rival the West Indian World.

The paper was mostly read by immigrants from the Caribbean interested in ‘news from back home.’ During the mid-1980s, the editor of The Caribbean Times, Mike Massive, “The Caribbean Times, [sic] expresses that particular perspective of a campaigning newspaper that addresses political issues.” Ali sold the newspapers in 1997 to focus on book publishing.

The Voice newspaper

In Britain, the founding of The Voice newspaper by businessman Val McCalla in 1982 saw a new era in newspapers targeted towards blacks in Britain. It grew out of the Brixton riots in 1981, with a grant from the Greater London Council and unlike its predecessors, The Voice was produced by those born and raised in the nation. It spoke to the generation of young people like those who had taken part in the riots. According to former editor Onyekachi Wambu, “all other papers had one foot here and one foot there.”   Calling itself “Britain’s Best Black newspaper,” the weekly abandoned the notion that black newspapers served first generation settlers, connecting them with their former homelands. At its height, The Voice’s circulation reportedly peaked at 57,000 in the early to mid 90s. Later it abandoned its Audit Bureau of Circulations certification altogether. In 2004, Jamaica’s Gleaner company purchased The Voice for £4 million. By 2009, it was the only remaining black newspaper in the nation. McCalla also launched the short-lived The Weekly Journal, the country’s first national broadsheet targeting black professionals in April 1992.

http://www.voice-online.co.uk/

Pride magazine

The lifestyle magazine, the brainchild of three young Londoners, launched in 1991.  It was later acquired by The Voice publisher Val McCalla, who re-launched the magazine in 1993, this time targeting women between 18 and 35. At once time, Pride had issues in other European countries including Holland and Germany, as well as in Jamaica, Ghana and North America. The only black media company of any size that still remains in black British ownership, in 2012 it celebrated its 21st year.

New Nation

Former Voice staffers started the New Nation, in 1996. Once a competitor of The Voice, the weekly newspaper, at times outpaced its rival as the number one selling black newspaper. The New Nation was published by Ethnic Media Group, a publisher of weekly newspapers, magazines, websites and digital newspapers for Britain’s African, Caribbean, Black British and Asian communities in the UK. When the New Nation ceased publication in January 2009, its former editor Angela Foster wrote an op-ed explaining that the paper had been felled by declining advertising revenues and competition from the Internet.

The African Times and Orient Review

The African Times and Orient Review was Britain’s first black political publication.  The magazine was created by Egyptian-born Duse Mohammed Ali and Sierra Leonean journalist and businessman John Eldred Taylor in 1912 following the Universal Race Congress in 1911. Ali, who lived mainly in Britain from 1883 to 1921 wrote in its first edition, the Congress needs “a Pan-Oriental, Pan-African journal at the seat of the British Empire which would lay the aims, desires and intentions of the black, brown, and yellow races—within and without the Empire—at the throne of Caesar.”  With its Fleet Street offices staffed with a multicultural mix, the publication attracted prominent blacks in Britain and beyond including composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor and activist Marcus Garvey. The journal’s international circulation was high with readership among intellectuals in Africa, North America and the Caribbean. It lasted eight years, with its final edition appearing in 1920.

The African Telegraph

The African Telegraph newspaper was founded by businessman John Eldred Taylor in 1914. It too served as an organ for an anti-colonial organization, this time the Society of Peoples of African Origin, created by Taylor. While it focused primarily on West African issues, the publication also exposed racial tensions in Britain with its reports on race riots in Cardiff (Wales) and Liverpool. Explaining its goals, the editor said: “We are here because we ought to be…because it can be demonstrated that the African colonies and all that pertain to their social welfare have received scan justice at the hands of journalism.”  The African Telegraph was forced to close in 1919 after Taylor lost a libel case.

The Keys, a quarterly journal of the League of Coloured Peoples in London, was published regularly from the summer of 1933 until the beginning of the Second World War.  The League attracted black professionals and intellectuals. During the late 1930s, The Keys was a watchdog, decrying and publicizing both injustices committed against blacks in Britain and abroad and advancing ideas for the betterment of blacks. Following an interruption at the beginning of World War II, it was revived as the League of Coloured Peoples Newsletter and focused on issues concerning the new influx of black servicemen and West Indian workers to Britain. It was published well into the 1940s.

Benjamin, I (1995). The black press in Britain. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham Books.

Dabydeen D., Gilmore J., Jones, C (2007). Oxford: The Oxford companion to Black British History, Oxford University Press.

Duffield, I. (1976) `Duse Mohammed Ali: his purpose and his public,’ in The Commonwealth Writer Overseas: Themes of Exile and Expatriation, edited by Alastair Niven, Brussels: M. Didier.

Marton, E. ed. (2009) Encyclopedia of Blacks in European History and Culture. Westport: Greenwood Press.

Frayer, P. (1984), Staying Power The History of Black People in Britain.  London: Pluto Press.

Jones, C. (1964) “The Caribbean Community in Britain,” London: Freedomways V.

Lynch, H. (1967) Edward Wilmot Blyden: Pan-Negro patriot 1832-1912. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sewell, T. “Val McCalla Founder of ‘The Voice newspaper,” The Independent newspaper.

OLIVE VASSELL, M.A., is a journalist and professor with over 27 years experience in the field. She has worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Channel 4 (UK) and has written for The Voice newspaper, (UK. She began her career at the pioneer West Indian World in London. In 2009, she launched Euromight, (www.euromight.com) the pioneering pan-European, news site that focuses on European communities of African heritage. Vassell holds a master’s degree in International Journalism from the leading City University in London, UK. She heads the journalism program at the University of the District of Columbia in Washington. D.C.