Lifting the Veil of Obscurity: Four Black Women Journalists, 1890--1950

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Arthur Kaul

Advisor Department

Mass Communication and Journalism


This project describes the journalism careers of four black women within the context of the period in which they lived and worked. Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary Church Terrell, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and Amy Jacques Garvey were among a group of approximately twenty black women journalists who wrote for newspapers, magazines, and other media during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Despite journalism careers that spanned decades, the women are obscure in journalism history. The four women journalists called attention to the failure of American society to recognize the rights of African Americans during a time when they were struggling to gain a foothold in society. Collectively, the women worked for dozens of black publications, owned newspapers, and were editors, correspondents, columnists, and editorial writers. Some contributed to the mainstream press. Through their work as journalists, they informed, persuaded, entertained, and advocated as they sought to enlighten and elevate their race and sex. Significantly, the body of their journalism work advanced their activist agendas. However, literature about the history of the black and mainstream press rarely acknowledges them. With the goal of lifting the veil of obscurity and placing these women in journalism history, this project explores their lives, the publications for which they wrote, their audiences, and the themes in their writings. The ultimate aim of this research is to acknowledge and record the journalism careers and contributions of the four women.