Black and Irish Press and the Struggle for Citizenship, 1870-1914Brian Shott
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
"One of the strengths of Mediating America is Shott’s use of primary sources, in addition to important secondary ones, including the works, papers, and letters of these editors. A significant contribution of Mediating America is its biographical overview of scholarship that has been unexamined or largely unknown to scholars, including Fortune’s forty-year-old biography and Ford’s nonexistent biographical details.The insightful contributions of Mediating America can be of value to scholars and researchers who are interested in ethnic, African, and Irish history, African and Irish presses, and American immigrant and journalism history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries."
— American Journalism
"Brian Shott’s Mediating America is a carefully researched and well-written contribution to the history of the minority press in America.... Shott uses a series of four case studies to offer a comparative study of the Irish and African American presses in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His findings unearth new and interesting insights into how minority groups used the popular press to consolidate their positions during the Gilded Age."
— Journal of American Ethnic History
"Mediating America explores the ways African American and Irish American editors used their newspapers to organize, identify and advocate for group interests in the face of systemic exclusion and marginalization... There is much to be learned from this book... The research is thorough, and brings to light editors and issues that have not received the attention they should."
— Journalism History
" Brian Shott’s study of four figures in the late nineteenth-century press offers scholars of American journalism a detailed look at the political and social issues of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century.... Shott poses a number of important, interesting questions.... (His) thoughtful observations deserve praise for their contribution to the greater body of knowledge regarding the Gilded Age press."
— Journal of American History
"Shott’s study is at its best and most illuminating when it foregrounds how U.S. and global political contexts heightened tensions between national belonging and group identity in African American and Irish American periodicals.... Shott’s analysis of newspaper coverage of (Thomas) Fortune’s Pacific sojourn adds valuably to scholarship.... Mediating America leaves our picture of turn-of-the-century Irish American and African American periodicals largely intact...but it does the essential work of adding topographic contour, shading, and depth to the map"
— American Periodicals