An institutional need…

January 19, 2009 by  
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One of our fellow collectors recently made the following inquiry seeking missing issues of an African-American newspaper from North Carolina. Not having any magical answers for him, I offer his request to all our customers in hopes someone might have a lead or suggestion. Feel free to respond through this blog.

African-American Newspaper–Durham, North Carolina

I’ve been casually interested in old newspapers and magazines for a number of years, and have regularly used them in my university classes (I recently retired as a professor of environmental policy at Duke, and often used them to document early conservation struggles.)

A few weeks ago,  I got involved in a volunteer project at the historical collection of the Durham, NC county library, indexing microfilmed copies of a weekly African-American newspaper called the Carolina Times, published between 1927 and the present.

The content, especially in the 1930s and 1940s, is amazing.  I had known a fair amount of Durham history, but was taken aback by the many specific injustices documented even here (supposedly one of the South’s most progressive cities) in the Jim Crow era.  There is much original research still to be done, and the newspaper provides a vivid counterpoint to the local white media, which are also available.

Unfortunately, our microfilm lacks all issues between 1927 to 1937 and 1944-48.  Also missing is the early version of the paper, the Durham Standard Advertiser, 1919-1927.  Extensive searching reveals that no other library in the country has these issues, in any format (everyone has the same, incomplete, microfilm).  I’ve used all my research skills to try to track them down, without success.

It would be a real contribution to both Durham history and African-American history to make this missing material available to scholars and others.  Might you have any ideas?  Private collectors?  Archives that would not show up in the usual searches of libraries or internet troves.    Peak circulation was 20,000 (in the 1940s) so it is not a completely obscure title.  The paper’s offices burned in 1975, so the original archive was lost.

I can really recommend this kind of material to anyone interested in modern history.  Any help with my own quest would be appreciated.

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