Mediating America

Black and Irish Press and the Struggle for Citizenship, 1870-1914

Brian Shott
Book Cover

PB: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1558-5
Publication: Jan 19

HC: $99.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1557-8
Publication: Jan 19

Ebook: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1559-2
Publication: Jan 19

250 pages
6 x 9
22 halftones

How black and Irish journalists in the Gilded Age used newspapers to shape and constrain the struggle for American belonging


Until recently, print media was the dominant force in American culture. The power of the paper was especially true in minority communities. African Americans and European immigrants vigorously embraced the print newsweekly as a forum to move public opinion, cohere group identity, and establish American belonging.

Mediating America explores the life and work of T. Thomas Fortune and J. Samuel Stemons as well as Rev. Peter C. Yorke and Patrick Ford—respectively two African American and two Irish American editor/activists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Historian Brian Shott shows how each of these “race men” (the parlance of the time) understood and advocated for his group’s interests through their newspapers. Yet the author also explains how the newspaper medium itself—through illustrations, cartoons, and photographs; advertisements and page layout; and more—could constrain editors’ efforts to guide debates over race, religion, and citizenship during a tumultuous time of social unrest and imperial expansion.

Black and Irish journalists used newspapers to recover and reinvigorate racial identities. As Shott proves, minority print culture was a powerful force in defining American nationhood.


“A bold comparison of Irish and African American newspaper editors, Shott’s Mediating America reveals not only how each editor navigated national belonging and advancement for his race but also how they envisioned the relationship between their race, the nation, and empire. Shott tells the compelling story of how two marginalized groups reacted to each other and to the central political issues of the day—domestic and global.”
M. Alison Kibler, Professor of American Studies and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Franklin and Marshall College, and author of Censoring Racial Ridicule: Irish, Jewish, and African American Struggles over Race and Representation, 1890–1930

“With rich and illuminating research, Brian Shott explores how editors such as T. Thomas Fortune, J. Samuel Stemons, Reverend Peter C. Yorke, and Patrick Ford used their newspapers to be more than mere bully pulpits. He demonstrates how under these Black and Irish journalists, papers such as the New York Age and Irish World became spaces where the editors calibrated ethnic, racial, and religious identities while at the same time arguing for the recognition of their constituency’s citizenship and protection of their civil rights. Mediating America is a must-read for those interested in questions around race, citizenship, and development of racial and ethnic identities at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Shawn Leigh Alexander, Professor of African and African American Studies, Director of the Langston Hughes Center at the University of Kansas, and author of An Army of Lions: The Civil Rights Struggle before the NAACP

About the Author(s)

Brian Shott is a writer, editor, and independent scholar. He earned his Ph.D. in American history from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and has taught history at San Quentin Prison in a college-accredited program run through Patten University.