Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Veronica Watson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Lingyan Yang, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Christopher Kuipers, Ph.D.


My dissertation argues that the black press of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries set the stage for a flourishing black protest tradition in black literature in three ways: suggesting what should be protested; creating figuratively and literally the space for literary protest; and acting as a training ground in the school of protest for black writers who moved back and forth between both worlds, journalism and literature. In arguing the black press’ role in shaping a black protest tradition in African American literature, my dissertation restricts itself to the 1840s through the 1930s. I chose this time period for this dissertation because these are crucial years of the growth of both the black press and black literature. Furthermore, during these years four African American writers emerged: Frederick Douglass, Pauline E. Hopkins, James Weldon Johnson, and W.E.B. Du Bois. I use these authors because of their extensive work in both genres and because they are representative of the role print protest journalism played in molding black literary protest. Chapter one argues that Douglass used his newspaper to create the heroic man persona that surfaces in his literary works. Chapter two argues that Hopkins’s work as a magazine editor helped her to construct a new social reality prevalent in her journalism and literature work. Chapter three demonstrates Johnson's use of journalism techniques in his literature to attack lynching. Chapter four argues that Du Bois’s major journalism themes to include but not limited to Pan-Africanism and capitalism often made their way into his literary works in an effort to protest racial and economic oppression. By telling and using the stories of these four authors/journalists, I hope to have demonstrated in this dissertation the significance of the black press in providing a venue directly and indirectly for protest literature to thrive in African American literature.