Date of Award

Spring 5-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communication and Journalism



Committee Chair

Vanessa D. Murphree

Committee Chair Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 2

David R. Davies

Committee Member 2 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 3

Christopher R. Campbell

Committee Member 3 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 4

Cheryl Jenkins

Committee Member 4 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 5

Fei Xue

Committee Member 5 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism


From 1930 to 1959, the black college student-run press was a prolific voice leading discussions about ways to eradicate racial discrimination, amass political currency, and nurture communal solidarity. Embedded in their mission was a desire to awaken their readers intellectually and emotionally to join a mounting movement toward racial liberation. Yet, historians have ignored this expansive network of black collegian editors and writers, who were a philosophical extension of the professional Black Press.

Like their mentors in the Black Press, black college student editors and writers vigorously advocated for racial equality, took a combative stance against political gerrymandering that left blacks stripped of power and their dignity, and pleaded with their readers to work as a collective to overcome entrenched racism. As a microcosm of the might of the black college student-run press, five schools were explored to determine how the writers and editors covered the prevailing issues of the first half of the twentieth century: race, politics, and community building.

On the campuses of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina; Clark University in Atlanta, Georgia; Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia; Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama student editors and writers shared a communal responsibility to elevate their race. However, each newspaper’s voice was shaped by their school’s historical origins, the students who served in editorial posts, and environmental pressures, which defined the African American experience.

The researcher discovered the students were able to use their campus newspapers as an authentic outlet of expression. Additionally, the black college student-run press displayed diversity of thought, and often struggled between striking a balance between the philosophical leanings of their mentors and ancestors, and finding their editorial independence. This investigation is significant because it provides insight into how black college women and men communicated about their roles and responsibilities in society during their collegiate years, which traditionally represented a season of social, political, and personal enlightenment. The findings indicate that the five schools embraced a mission to engage their audience in meaningful discourse by delivering news with maturity and passion.