In the mid-1800s, most newspapers did not record events within the African American communities. So-called "black newspapers" helped fill the gap and have since grown up over the years to become powerful record keepers of a segment of society sometimes relegated to the sidelines by the mainstream media. Many of these are small community newspapers, with few advanced IT resources, and very little emphasis placed on the value of their store of historical data. That is about to change.
A partnership between leading black media placement firm Amalgamated Publishers Inc. and Ninestars Information Technology Ltd. has been created to embark on the process of digitizing reams of back-issues from more than 200 black newspapers throughout the United States. The final, fully Internet-searchable information database will be made available to each individual paper. The hope is eventually to create a master, Internet-enabled portal database. Anyone from the merely curious to historical scholars will be able to take a tour through history from the perspective of the black newspaper. This new online database should be a boon for anyone searching African American ancestors.
Many of the newspapers to be included in this new online database go back well over 100 years. In 2004, Amalgamated began digitizing the archives of two black papers earmarked to serve as a test bed for the project. Stories from the Chicago Crusader and the Gary (Indiana) Crusader have already been converted to digital form and the content is now at Ninestars' Chennai, India, facility where it's being processed and evaluated.
Once completed, the new online archive will allow searching for every word in every edition of each newspaper. The new database will be made available through each participating newspaper. It is expected that fees will be charged for searches. No dates have yet been given for the availability of this database.