Representing overlooked communities

16 Jul 2021 6:26 AM | Autumn Linford (Administrator)

By Kimberly Voss

With the fall semester starting, it’s time to look at which people and which media are included in our journalism history classes. Are we relying too much on textbooks that highlight the mainstream, and in the process, are we overlooking marginalized communities in our classes? NYU has a Culturally Responsive Curriculum Scorecard that is helpful in examining a syllabus and curriculum for diversity and inclusion, which is available online through the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools. If you decide you can do more, then providing students access to these materials is not difficult as there are numerous archives with scanned materials for students to explore.

One of my favorite digital archives is the U.S. Caribbean and Ethnic Florida Digital Newspaper Project. It is a collaborative project between the George A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida, the library system at the University of Puerto Rico- Rio Piedras, and the University of the Virgin Islands. Thanks to a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, the project offers digitized versions of ethnic and Caribbean newspapers, which are available through the National Digital Newspaper Program.

The collection also has articles based on topics, including the Bubonic Plague, the Armenian Genocide during World War I, and the presidential election of 1920. There are also sections regarding feminism in the early 20th century Puerto Rican press.

Another great resource within the project is the digitized version of Diario las Américas. The newspaper focused on coverage of local events, as well as news from across the state. It included a recurring news section “La Voz de Tampa” (The Voice of Tampa), which featured news directly from the paper’s Tampa office. There are about 15,000 pages covering November 1953 through December 1960 that are text-searchable in Chronicling America. 

Also found in the project is the Southern Jewish Weekly, which began publication in 1939 when editor Isadore Moscovitz merged the Florida Jewish News and the Jewish Citizen to create a new newspaper that would be “an independent weekly serving American citizens of Jewish faith.” The newspaper was published in Jacksonville, Florida, once a week, with issues typically being eight pages. While Isadore was away serving in World War II, his wife, Mrs. Ethel “Teddy” Moscovitz, managed the paper and served as its editor in the interim. The paper continued as a monthly until January 1947 when Isadore returned to the United States.

An excellent collection of newspaper’s women’s pages are also contained in the project. As the collection notes, an examination of the women’s section in the Pensacola Journal reveals a portrait of the social calendar in the city. (The project has digitized versions of the Journal spanning from January 1905 to December 1914.) There were the traditional reports of weddings, births, and deaths, but also columns reporting illnesses, birthday parties, and club meetings. The social events found on the “People and Events” page typically contained a paragraph or more. For example, a 1909 “Society” column included four paragraphs about Miss Victorine Kroenberger, “a beautiful young Pensacola girl” who left home to “enter the Convent of the Holy Cross at Notre Dame” in order to become a nun.

One of the newspapers in the digital collection is the Ocala Evening Star, published from 1895-1943 before joining with the Ocala Banner to form the Ocala Star-Banner. From Jan. 28, 1902 to Feb. 24, 1908, the paper regularly dedicated space for local African American news, even though it was published by a white owner. Known as the “Colored Folks Column” from 1902 to 1903 and the “Colored People’s Department” from 1904 until it ended, it provided insight into African American life in the community and contained notices about illness and recovery, wedding news, deaths, and the availability of lodging and property.

The most important news to any community, just like politics, is local. Don’t be afraid to bring community and regional voices into your history curriculum. Direct access to primary source material, made possible through these digital archives, is instrumental to creating an inclusive environment.

Kimberly Voss is a professor at the  University of Central Florida

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