Although several entrepreneurs established newspapers for Baltimore’s large antebellum free African American community (25,000 persons in 1860, largest in the U.S. at the time), no issues have survived. The Baltimore Afro American has covered the news of the city’s black population since 1892; however, historians and genealogists hoping to glean more journalistic coverage of life among “Charm City’s” African Americans, before or after the Afro, must look elsewhere. And that is precisely what genealogist Margaret D. Pagan has set out to do in this book.
Founded in 1837, The Baltimore Sun published numerous articles characterizing local, national, and international events relating to and impacting people of color. Beginning with the Reconstruction year of 1870, Margaret D. Pagan has performed the yeoman’s task of scouring the newspaper for all such accounts and summarizing their contents through 1927. To quote historian Donna T. Hollie, who wrote the Foreword to the compilation, “The author has selected articles for this publication which provide an expansive overview of experiences chronicling the African diaspora. For example, the reader will learn of the evolution of ‘Jim Crow,’ regarding housing and interstate travel. Also included are summaries covering sports, lynching, entertainment, and political, educational, economic and religious activities. The accomplishments of well-known activists such as Frederick Douglass, and lesser-known ones such as Henry Highland Garnet, both Maryland born, are detailed.”
Genealogists searching for Baltimore connections will appreciate that Mrs. Pagan has also included references to marriage license applicants and obituaries. Obituaries, of course, sometimes provide details about the decedent’s family and organizational connections. Among the more than 800 entries in this chronology, researchers will find references to James B. Parker, the African American who subdued Leon Czolgosz, President McKinley’s assassin; meetings of Baltimore’s Brotherhood of Liberty, the precursor to the Niagara Movement and founding of the NAACP; and efforts to install black teachers in Baltimore’s segregated schools for African Americans. For the researcher’s convenience, the author has included a comprehensive index to names and events referenced in her chronology. For all these attributes and Mrs. Pagan’s careful attention to detail, African American News in the Baltimore Sun, 1870-1927 must certainly be the starting point for anyone interested in black history and genealogy during the era under investigation.