Running head: POLITICAL ISSUES IN THE EARLY BLACK PRESS
Political Issues in the Early Black Press:
Applying Frame Analysis to Historical Contexts
Aleen J. Ratzlaff
Sharon Hartin Iorio
Wichita State University
This qualitative study examines political issues that appeared in the
Black and mainstream press in Wichita, Kansas during the mid-1890s.
Content analysis and interpretative framing packages are used to identify,
analyze, and compare issues and frames found in a Black newspaper and
general circulation White paper. Race and political ideology played
roles in framing political issues, which accounts for the similarities
differences between issues and frames used by the newspapers.
POLITICAL ISSUES IN THE EARLY BLACK PRESS:
Applying Frame Analysis to Historical Contexts
Since Freedom's Journal was published in 1827, the Black press has served
as a voice for Black Americans who often have been ridiculed,
or ignored by the mainstream press (Pride, 1956; Kessler, 1984; Dates
Barlow, 1990; Wolseley, 1990). Black editors have used their
channels to inform and persuade their readers. Frequently, research of
the early Black press has focused on how the newspapers functioned for
their readership. These studies reveal that early Black newspapers
promoted positive individual and community identities, denounced the unjust
conditions endured by Blacks, and advocated for social and political
change (Krieling, 1977-78; Nordin, 1977-78; O'Kelly, 1982; Kessler,
1984; Klassen & Johnson, 1986; Williams, 1989; Stevens & Johnson,
During the late-19th century, Black newspapers sought to elevate the Black
race and advocated economic and educational opportunities (O'Kelly, 1982).
The early Black press framed the social and political life of its readers
(Klassen & Johnson, 1986; Stevens & Johnson, 1990). The papers addressed
specific issues such as employment, education, discrimination,
colonization, and lynching (Nordin, 1977-78; Barrow, 1977-78;
1978). Particularly in the 1880s and 1890s, Black newspapers responded
editorially to the increase in lynching and other violence against
"In general, the black press at the turn of the century was an advocator
for civil rights for blacks and a publicizer of issues and events
associated with this cause in the United States and abroad" (O'Kelly, 1982,
PURPOSE OF STUDY
Although examinations of Black newspapers have shown consistent themes
associated with social and political consciousness and found that the
publications have functioned to promote change, a void exists. As part
its function to inform constituents, one of the most prominent roles
Black press has been to present the concerns of the day to its readers.
How have political issues been presented in Black newspapers? Little
research has addressed the communication of political issues in Black
papers. In particular, researchers have not compared political issues
found in early Black and mainstream newspapers or how those specific
were framed for their readers. This research examines the communication
of political issues in Black newspapers by comparing and analyzing the
issues found in two weekly publications that were published concurrently
one mainstream and one Black newspaper.
In particular, this study investigates the similarities and differences in
the presentation of political issues by Black newspapers and the
mainstream press of Wichita, Kansas in the mid-1890s. The goal of this
research is to answer the following questions: (a) What political
were addressed in the Black newspaper, (b) how did the newspaper frame
those issues, and (c) how did the issues and frames of reference of the
Black newspaper compare with those addressed by a general-circulation
Researchers have used frame analysis to study political issues in the
media (Gamson & Lasch, 1983; Gamson & Modigliani, 1987; Gamson, 1988;
Gamson, & Modigliani; Gamson 1989; Gamson, Croteau, Hoynes, & Sasson,
1992). This orientation of framing was derived from Goffman's (1974)
denotation of information. Without some sort of organization,
have no meaning (Goffman, 1974). Goffman (1974) coined the term
denote a method of organization that enables individuals to "locate,
perceive, identify, and label a seemingly infinite number of occurrences"
into something meaningful (p. 21). According to Goffman (1974),
often unaware of the framework of everyday life, even though frames of
reference are perceptual structures that organize individual
interpretations. People use similar processes to frame events --
it is a drama, dance, a newspaper story, political cartoon or everyday
Goffman's ideas were adapted by Gitlin (1980) to the analysis of media.
Media framing, according to Gitlin, is a way journalists organize and
package information and events for their audience. Gitlin (1980)
media frames as "persistent patterns of cognition, interpretation,
presentation, selection, emphasis, and exclusion, by which symbol-handlers
routinely organize discourse, whether verbal or visual" (p. 7).
Gamson and Lasch (1983) identified interpretive framing packages to
analyze issues in the media. The packages were composed of core frames
framing devices that structured the same issue in different ways. Gamson
(1988) referred to these cluster of ideas as "issue packages." It is
important to note here that frames do not infer whether individuals take
pro or con position on any issue, but, instead, allow for a range of
positions concerning a particular issue (Gamson & Lasch, 1983). A viable
frame will incorporate and give meaning to events that occur over
Gamson and Modigliani (1987) analyzed the framing of affirmative
racial and ethnic minorities over a period of 20 years. The same authors
also conducted a longitudinal study of framing packages for nuclear
used in four general audience media (Gamson & Modigliani, 1989).
Frame analysis has been applied effectively to the examination of
political issues in current media. This theoretical orientation can also
be used in the analysis of the historical press. In general,
played a vital role in the life of the political party system in the
(Baldasty & Rutenbeck, 1988). Though the late-19th century mainstream
press was becoming more independent and commercial, most mainstream and
Black newspapers maintained a political party affiliation (Baldasty &
Rutenbeck, 1988, Thornbrough, 1966). These affiliations cast the issues
the papers in terms of political partisanship. Frame analysis allows us
to look at the rich social history as presented by the mainstream and
press in the mid-1890s.
The late-1800s was a time of political unrest that included a growing
third-party movement, the People's or Populist Party (Nugent, 1963).
grass-roots effort was most popular among agrarian and working-class
Americans, who felt trapped by high land mortgages, low crop prices, and
the availability of cheap labor that the Populists believed resulted
the increasing number of immigrants arriving in the United States
1963). The political climate of Kansas, in particular, was affected
is movement. Allocation of public land for settlers, banking reform,
silver, and government ownership of transportation systems became
issues for Kansas Populists in the 1890s (Clanton, 1969). In 1892, a
Populist candidate, Lorenzo Lewelling, was as elected governor of
traditionally Republican state (Nugent, 1963).
The rise of Populism also affected the political climate of Wichita in the
1890s. In general, Wichitans focused on several political issues. The
economy was hit by a recession that followed an economic boom in the
(Miner, 1988). Real estate prices dropped, affecting both private
businesses and city government. The construction of city-owned buildings,
that began in the 1880s, slowed. This resulted in less demand for
construction laborers. City leaders were concerned about freight rates,
since rising transportation costs affected Wichita's competition with
cities along the railroad (Miner, 1988). Concern about trade, jobs, and
transportation was central to the Populist political agenda. With an
incumbent Populist governor running for re-election in 1894, the
climate rose to a crescendo, thus influencing the public debate of
political issues in Wichita.
Content analysis is a systematic and objective method that identifies
specific characteristics of messages in the communication process
1969). This methodology is a useful tool to describe communication
messages in newspapers. Content analysis answers questions such as: What
are the messages, e.g., issues; and how are the messages, e.g.,
presented? Thus, content analysis was used in this study to examine
political issues at a one point in time.
The primary objective of the research was to discover the communication
processes regarding political issues in Wichita's Black community
the 1890s. At least six Black newspapers were published during this
To keep the research manageable, it was necessary to confine the focus
particular newspapers that were published in a specific time period.
political activity during this time became one of the determining
in choosing the sample of newspapers for examination.
Historical data were gathered from two newspapers that were published in
Wichita during the mid-1890s: (a) The People's Friend, a
Republican-affiliated Black newspaper; and (b) The Kansas Star, a
Republican general-circulation newspaper. Both were published in 1894,
during the height of the Populist movement in Kansas. Extant copies
available on microfilm and accessible to the researchers.
Numerous daily and weekly newspapers were published in Wichita during
this time, including morning and evening papers. This study was
one Black newspaper that was compared with a general-circulation
newspaper. The Friend and the Star were chosen for the study because both
were published weekly in 1894. This allowed for the comparison of
that were addressed in different newspapers during the same time
From May 24, 1894, to Sept. 28, 1894, the Friend and the Star
were published concurrently. Also, both papers had the same political
affiliation, the Republican party. Though extant copies of the Star
available from 1890 to 1901, the sampling was limited to the same time
period as the extant Black paper. The Friend began publication on May
1894, and published its last issue 17 weeks later.
All of the newspaper issues from May 24 to Sept. 29, when the two
newspapers published concurrently, were analyzed. This included: 18 issues
of the Friend, May 24 to Sept. 28, 1894; and 19 issues of the Star, May
26, 1894, to Sept. 29, 1894. The June 7 issue of the Friend was not
The data were coded by the identification of interpretive packages, a
method used by Gamson and Lasch (1983) in their analysis of the framing
the welfare issue in a variety of media. They approached media
deductively. Use of Gamson and Lasch's method was designed to
how the two newspapers packaged political issues.
Gamson and Lasch (1983) identified two primary parts of interpretive
framing packages. The first one is the core of the frame, which
the central idea of the issue; the second part is called signature
and includes two categories--framing and reasoning devices. Framing
elements, as Gamson and Lasch identified them, are metaphors, exemplars,
catchphrases, depictions, and visual images. Reasoning devices are
underlying roots, consequences, and appeals to principle. By identifying
the signature elements of a particular frame, Gamson (1989) noted that
is possible to code data in a reliable way.
This research makes use of the rationale of interpretive packages in
compiling data dealing with political issues for the prescribed time
period. Each newspapers in the sampling was examined. Copy excluded from
coding was advertisements, business advertisements in editorial copy,
fictional serials, and features. The primary focus of the study was to
identify the political issues and compare the issues presented in the
press with those identified in a mainstream Republican newspaper.
Insightful information about the social history of the Black community of
Wichita and the political environment/climate of the era also were
Operationalizing "political issues" was a two-step process. First, a
distinction was made between what constitutes a news "event" and what
constitutes an "issue." A clarification of that differentiation was
borrowed from a discussion by Rogers and Dearing (1988), who defined
as "discrete happenings that are limited by space and time" (p. 566).
Issues, on the other hand, involve "cumulative news coverage of a
related events that fit together in a broad category" (Rogers & Dearing,
1988, p. 566). For example, the report of Pullman shop strikers
ranks in Chicago would be considered an event (The People's Friend,
20, 1894, p. 2). The frame of this event of laborer unrest, along
strikes by coal miners and butchers, would be analyzed as part of the
The second step necessitated defining the term "political." Political,
according to Pennock and Smith (1964), refers to "...all that has to
with the forces, institutions, and organizational forms in any society
are recognized as having the most inclusive and final authority existing
in that society for the establishment and maintenance of order, the
effectuation of other conjoint purposes of its members, and the
reconciliation of their differences". (p. 9) In essence, "political
issues" in this study were defined as the general categorizations of
that relate to and influence societal forces, institutions, and
organizational forms that are designated to establish and maintain order,
mandate legislation, and resolve differences.
A reading of the two newspapers was conducted to identify political issues
in the newspapers. A list of the common issues was made. These issues
were analyzed according to Gamson and Lasch's (1983) schemata. A
the common political issues was constructed to facilitate the comparison
of the frame cores and signature elements. After the matrix was
the newspapers were coded by the issue frames. Analysis was conducted by
comparing the issues that emerged from the data and how those issues
framed. At question was how the issues and framing of the Wichita
press compared with the issues and framing of a general circulation
during the mid-1890s.
Validity and Reliability
Wimmer and Dominick (1991) cite limitations in the use of content
analysis. First, results can be skewed due to small sample size. This
study examined only two papers over a period of about four months. One
cannot draw definite conclusions that are valid for all Black or
newspapers in Wichita from this sample and no such attempt was made.
Analysis was restricted to the material under consideration and
were drawn relative to the issues as presented in the selected texts.
Second, there is the potential of researcher bias in the definition and
framework of the content categories. In order to mitigate the
of subjective interpretation and analysis of the two newspapers, a
triangulation of methods was used. In conjunction with content analysis,
historical data were investigated, including both primary and
sources, to verify results. In addition, intercoder reliability was
by two coders who classified 10 percent of the data independently.
agree ratio equaled .71, meaning that the coders agreed on seven of 10
In answering the research questions, the following discussion will focus
on the principal political issues addressed by the Friend, a Black
newspaper published in Wichita in the mid-1890s, and explain how the Friend
presented those issues. The similarities and differences in the
presentation and framing of political issues found in the Black newspaper
and a general circulation paper of Wichita will be isolated, compared,
Issues in the Black Newspapers
A compilation of the political issues addressed by the Friend from May 24
to Sept. 28, 1894, revealed 15 issues. This list included the
the tariff on imports to the United States, labor, prohibition,
corruption, women's suffrage, income tax, political party fusion,
government spending, foreign immigration, monopolies versus growth of
private ownership, monetary silver/gold, civil rights, social mobility of
blacks, lynching, and emigration by blacks (see Appendix A, Table 1).
Most of the issues that were identified in the Black newspapers were
either race-related issues, or issues that were specified in either the
Populist, Republican, or Democratic party platforms. The exception
was not party-platform issues or racial concerns was party fusion.
Friend addressed four race-related political issues: civil rights,
social mobility of the Black race, lynching, and the emigration of
No political issue listed on the Republican, Democrat, and Populist party
platforms was notably absent in the Friend.
Even though the Friend presented issues that were unique to the concerns
of their readers, several other issues received significant coverage.
most prominent issues in the Friend focused on the debate over tariffs
U.S. imports, the status of the labor force, and issues of racial
Less prominent issues were silver/gold ratio, government corruption and
Issue Frames Found in the Black Newspaper
The frames of five issues that were found in the Friend were examined:
the tariff on U.S. imports, labor, lynching, civil rights, and
corruption. The rationale for choosing these five issues was based on
compilation of the issues that were mentioned most frequently in the
newspaper (see Appendix A, Table 1). For each issue, signature elements
for the interpretative framing packages were identified (see Appendix
Table 2). Complete explication of an interpretive framing package in
paper has been to one issue--the tariff. To contrast the
political party issues and issues of racial concern, the civil rights
issue also will be discussed.
Tariff on U.S. Imports
Protectionism package. As stated, the dominant political issue reported
by the Friend, based upon number of stories, was the controversy over
lifting import tariffs. The particular coverage focused on the Wilson
tariff bill passed by Congress in 1894, which established a free-trade
of non-taxed imports. The Wilson bill attempted to reduce the tariffs
imposed by the McKinley tariff bill that was passed in 1890. As a
issue, the Democratic Party supported free trade, while Republicans
supported import taxes that protected American workers and consumers. The
overall core frame of the tariff issue was whether taxes on imports to
United States hurt or helped the American economy. Since the Friend's
editor, William Jeltz, had pledged his support to the Republican Party,
was not surprising that the newspaper endorsed the Republican position
protectionism. Thus, the position of the core frame stated that
tariffs on imports caused serious harm to the American economy.
Seven signature elements were identified in the protectionism framing
package (see Appendix B for signature matrixes). The package appealed
the principle of Republican Party loyalty. The destruction of
protectionism was depicted as unconstitutional because it violated the
of the people (The People's Friend, Aug. 31, 1894, p. 3). The "humbug
bill" was a catchphrase that conveyed the disgruntled attitude shared
Republicans over the passage of the Wilson tariff bill. The
of free trade were higher prices for consumer goods and lower wages
workers that in turn deprived consumers of their buying power.
Cutting off wages necessarily cuts off what the people can buy, and thus
necessarily reduces business. Now the one fact which everybody can see
that wages are at present very much lower than they were two years
before the people voted for a change of tariff. (The People's Friend,
28, 1894, p. 3) Rooted in greed and self-interest, free-trade supporters
were labeled as fanatics from a "gigantic organization of boodlers
who were looking out only for themselves (The People's Friend, Aug.
1894, p. 4).
Large corporations and organizations, such as the Sugar Trust -- a
powerful liaison of sugar-producing companies -- were depicted as
beneficiaries of a Democratic free-trade conspiracy against other
industries. One cartoon showed Democratic President Grover Cleveland's
motto as "In Sugar We Trust" (The People's Friend, Sept. 28, 1894, p.
On the other hand, average citizens and smaller businesses were identified
as the losers. For example, "It is the workingman who pays, in reduced
wages, the cost of democratic tariff reform," and "All the trusts were
liberally provided for in the bill, while a tax was upon the sugar of the
peodle [sic] and upon the business men and tee [sic] employes [sic] of
labor" (The People's Friend, Aug. 31, 1894, pp. 3, 4). "The price of
foreign wool imports is now so low that without protective duties American
wool growers cannot successfully compete with them" (The People's
Sept. 14, 1894, p. 3).
The consequences of the tariff were not limited to the national economy.
Ramifications were identified beyond the U.S.'s national borders. For
example, the import taxes on sugar impacted Cuban planters, who were
expected to retaliate with increased duties on American exports (The
People's Friend, Sept. 21, 1894, p. 2).
Several metaphors were used by the Friend to construct the interpretive
package for the tariff issue. A tree-planting metaphor illustrated
projected outcome of the tariff bill.
Alas, for the death of a barren hobby reared by Democratic husbandry
but blasted by the hot waves of pubic opinion. Let our modern
thinkers take warning and govern themselves accordingly. The sapling,
Mr. Wilson's bill, does not resemble the original trunk to an
extent and it was better for the people that the tree of Protection
had been let alone as planted by Farmer McKinley (The People's
Sept. 21, 1894, p. 1).
A second metaphor characterized the tariff bill as the cause of death of
the Democratic Party. In a political graveyard, donkey hooves were
from a grave located near the tombstone of the old Whig Party (The
People's Friend, Aug. 31, 1894, p. 3).
Most weeks, the Friend addressed the civil rights issue. Two interpretive
packages were used to frame the different dimensions of this issue:
social injustice and the "Negro problem" -- a catchphrase used by both
newspapers to designate prejudicial attitudes (see Appendix B for
matrixes). Using two frames for the civil rights issue enabled Editor
Jeltz to distinguish between attitudes and behaviors that violated the
principle of equality for all races. The Negro problem frame focused on
racial prejudice, and the frame of social injustice was used to
acts of discrimination, although neither distinction was explicitly
in the papers.
Negro problem package. According to the Friend, the origin of "all our
race trouble is fanaticism prejudice" (Aug. 31, 1894, p. 4). While
prejudice was traced to the era of slavery, the Populist and Democratic
parties were depicted as contributors to the problem (The People's
July 13, 1894, p. 1; Aug. 17, 1894, p. 1; Sept. 7, 1894, p. 1). One
metaphor used by the Friend in the Negro problem frame was the "mountain
prejudice" that prevented Black people from being viewed as equal citizens
(The People's Friend, June 22, 1894, p. 1).
Two exemplars of the Negro problem frame reported in the Friend were
speeches by White politicians who had used language that demeaned blacks.
There are some men of the [John J.] Ingalls stripe further west who
show their contempt for the Negro in congressional speeches and
votes...let every Negro in Kansas cast a stone on his [Ingall's] grave
that he may be so heavily weighted as to make his resurrection
impossible. It is not enough to withold [sic] their support from him,
but it is our duty to fight him. (The People's Friend, Sept. 7,
At the Democratic rally, held at Pertile Springs, Mo. September six,
among the noted speakers of the party on this occasion, was David
Overmyer, of Kansas the Democratic nominee for Gov. In the course
his remarks said,
"Out side [sic] of the Negro, whose ingnorant [sic] voice should not
be heard in this Government so far as legislation and voting are
concerned, the Democratic party out numbers [sic] all parties and
surpases [sic] all in intelligence, might and dignity"....no
man that has even average common sense pride and dignity for
and race, but what will hurl the insult in his [Overmyer] face
resent the same at the polls. (The People' Friend, Sept. 14, 1894,
Social injustice package. The core position for the social injustice
frame stated that, even more than 25 years after the Civil War, Black
were treated unjustly. This framing package appealed to the principle
the color of a person's skin should not be the determining factor whether
someone in the United States experiences the rights of full
The Friend depicted Black people as "honorable as the white man and
equal in every respect" (The People's Friend, Sept. 14, 1894, p. 4).
Comparison of Issues and Frames
between the Black Newspaper and a General-Circulation Paper
Specific issue comparisons between the Black and general circulation
newspapers revealed that the frames for the more prominent issues, such
the tariff and government corruption, were similar. For other issues,
as labor and lynching, the frames were different.
Tariff on U.S. Imports
The tariff was the most prominent issue in both the Friend and the Star.
Taking the Republican position, the newspapers used the protectionism
package to frame the tariff issue. The Star wrote, "The new tariff bill
not worth the effort required to frame and pass it" (Sept. 1, 1894, p. 4).
Both the Friend and the Star continued the debate over the impact of this
legislation on the national economy by focusing on the short and long-term
effects of the tariff on the price of consumer goods, unemployment, and
Another prominent issue in the Friend and the Star was the mismanagement
of government on the state level by the incumbent Populists. Certain
events injected this issue into the public forum. Lorenzo Lewelling,
Populist, was the incumbent in a heated contest for Kansas governor.
emasculation of several inmates at the Imbecile Asylum in Winfield and
use of rail passes by Governor Lewelling's administration were cited
evidence of the Populists' mismanagement of political power and
on the state level.
Taking out your knife and whetting it on your boot indicates that you
are a Populist employe [sic] at the Winfield Imbecile asylum.
a card with the word "reform" printed in large letters while you
slowly wink the other eye indicates that you have a job in the
statehouse (The Kansas Star, Sept. 1, 1894, p. 1)
These events were not reported in the Friend. The Friend only made general
references to Populist indiscretions.
Some of our Colored voters have been almost persuaded to think a
change of party was necessary, but the present condition of the
country; its state and national administration, convinces us that
there never was a better show for the success of the straight
Republican ticket than is now presented. (The People's Friend, Sept.
28, 1894, p. 1)
Labor, an economic issue that was closely related to the tariff, also was
a prominent issue in the Friend and the Star. Accounts of labor
railroad and coal workers, in particular, were frequent news events
reported by the newspapers. The strikes could be viewed from both a
negative or positive perspective, depending on underlying principles of
interpretative package of the labor issue. Two interpretative packages
framed the labor issue: One focused on the benefits for striking
and the other focused on strikes providing an opportunity for the
employment of blacks.
Benefit strikers. The Star primarily framed the labor strikes as a method
utilized to benefit the union workers. Though the violence was denounced
by the Star, generally the strikes were endorsed by the Star as a
improve working conditions. That the trains have been forcibly stopped
and destroyed is inexcusable... [yet] if the railroads had been
honestly, with due regard to the rights of other people, there would
been no strike." (The Kansas Star, Sept. 22, 1894, p. 1).
Open jobs. On the other hand, the core position of the frame used
primarily by the Friend promoted the positive impact that strikes had for
Black Americans. For example, while the costly and damaging economic
effects of the rail strike were noted by the Friend, the interpretative
package that framed the labor issue appealed to the principle that
deserved the same economic opportunities as whites. Implicit in the
Friend's coverage was that Black Americans had difficulty securing
permanent employment, and the strikes were viewed as one way to improve the
employment situation for blacks. The rail strike was said to open jobs
for blacks that had been unattainable. "Since the great Debs strike,
U.P. railroad employs colored people in its yards as switchmen,
and roundhouse men. If Debs will order another strike, we will advance
another notch" (The People's Friend, Sept. 14, 1894, p. 4).
An underlying principle of the Friend's labor frame was that the work of
Black men was no less valuable than that of their White counterparts.
This, argued Editor Jeltz, was evidence that Black men should be
into the labor unions. "Labor organizations need no longer attempt to
debar Negro employes [sic] from their organizations because it is a
demonstrative fact that he is coming well prepared in all lines sufficient
for the task" (The People's Friend, Sept. 14, 1894, p. 4).
Not only were labor unions closed to Black membership, but inventions such
as the cotton gin and a cotton-picking machine replaced the manual labor
of Black workers (The People's Friend, Aug. 31, 1894, p. 1). While
workers boycotted their employers because of inadequate wages or
conditions, Editor Jeltz argued that those in management were not
necessarily corrupt. It was a worthy goal to seek management positions.
He appealed to the principle that sound character and hard work would
result in economic success and justice.
...The growth of capital carries with it a certain influence for good
to society; and there is attached to it at the same time a
of inevitable redistribution when it assumes the form of large
personal estates. Fate always provides shiftless sons or grandsons to
scatter wealth, and it goes back to where it came from, in the
interest of the whole population. There are only three generations
from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in this country [sic], in this
country [sic], it has been well observed; and that is an assurance
which ought to silence all fears of peril to the republic from the
architects of big fortunes. (The People's Friend, Aug. 31, 1894,
Both newspapers gave attention to the lynching issue, but the Friend
interpreted the issue differently than the Star.
Mob law. The Friend framed lynching with the "mob law" interpretative
package. This frame depicted lynching as a Southern custom that was a
great evil. The frame appealed to the principle that courts should
determine guilt. For example, the Friend stated that everyone accused of a
crime had certain rights, "no matter their color or pedigree" (The
People's Friend, Sept. 21, 1894, p. 1). One metaphor regarded lynching "as
inevitable as rain" (The People's Friend, Aug. 31, 1894, p. 1).
A particularly tragic lynching incident in Tennessee was reported in both
newspapers in early September. Six Black men accused of barn burnings
killed by a mob of 50 men who had been led by several law-enforcement
officers. The Friend depicted the murdered men as "innocent colored
and "alleged negro incendiaries" -- family men whose deaths were
wives and children (The People's Friend, Sept. 7, 1894, p. 4; Sept. 21,
1894, p. 1).
Brutality. The Star framed lynching as brutal, but did deal with
consequences of the crime. While the Star first reported the lynching
incident as "alleged negro incendiaries" on one page, on another page
incident was referred to as led by "white ruffians who murdered in a
cold-blooded horrible manner six helpless negroes who were under arrest" (
The Kansas Star, Sept. 8, 1894, pp. 2, 4). A commentary followed that
stated, "few equals of barbarity [are present] in our country" (The
Star, Sept. 8, 1894, p. 4).
The Friend and the Star praised the prompt action that followed in which
the mob members in Tennessee were indicted for murder. Both
used distinctive terminology to designate lynching incidents. The term
"lynching" was used frequently in the Friend, whether it related to
specific incidents or to the anti-lynching campaign of Ida B. Wells, an
activist who promoted legislation to curtail lynching. Yet, the word
"lynching" was not used when the Tennessee story was first reported in
During May 24 to Sept. 29, 1894, the majority of political issues that
appeared the mainstream press of Wichita were also present in the
Black press. The issues of federal spending, civil service reform,
agriculture prices, and veterans' pension were present in the Star, but
the Friend. On the other hand, the Black newspapers covered race issues
that were not addressed by the mainstream newspaper. The core
the frames for race-related issues lynching addressed the problems of rac
ial inequality and injustice. The packages also promoted possible
solutions to the problem, whether through assimilation into the larger
society or emigration.
An examination of the Friend reveals that the issues covered in the paper
was not limited to issues that primarily concerned Black Wichitans.
tariff and labor issues that focused on economic interests were the
prominent in the Friend and the Star. The planks of the party
provided a framework for the public debate of numerous political
The Friend shared some of the same dominant issues as its general
counterpart, the Star, including the tariff, labor, government
ent, and Republican rhetoric. As Republican papers, the Friend and
Star endorsed protectionism and condemned the Populist state
The Friend and the Star often used "Republicanism" to frame its political
issues. This rhetoric promoted the innate goodness of Republican
candidates and the imminent victory of the GOP in November. According to
the Friend, the party deserved the Black man's vote because
principles are immutable" (The People's Friend, Aug. 31, 1894, p. 3).
metaphor used by the Friend depicted the life-saving aspects of the
The republican [sic] party has been the deck and all else the sea. The
republican party made us a contraband and gave us a shovel and told
us to dig the grave of slavery...Stand by the party that stood by
(The People's Friend, Sept. 7, 1894, p. 1)
This example reflects the partisan rhetoric that was typical of newspapers
published during the 19th century. Non-objective journalism was not
accepted, but encouraged.
Even though the newspapers focused on many of the same issues, they framed
the issues differently. While the frames for the tariff and government
mismanagement were similar, the Friend framed the labor issue
than the Star. The core position for framing the labor issue focused
its effect on Black Americans. The Star addressed only one issue of
concern--lynching. Though the term "lynching" was not initially used by
the Star, the newspaper framed the issue similarly to the Black
with an emphasis on the illegality and injustice of the acts.
Typically, the positions advocated by the Friend and the Star tended to
follow party lines. The mission statement of the individual
served as one factor that influenced both the kinds of political issues
addressed and how those issues were framed in the newspapers. The
explicitly identified itself as a newspaper that published information
particular concern to the Black citizens of Wichita; yet, the Friend
acknowledged its political association with the Republican party. "In
litics we are Republicans...Wichita will have what she deserves, a
Negro Newspaper--published in the interest of the Race" (The People's
Friend, May 31, 1894, p. 4). News sources was a second factor that
affected the choice of events that the paper printed. On numerous
occasions, the same stories were found in more than one newspaper,
particularly on the pages that were not locally generated. This also
accounts, in part, for the prominence of the tariff and the labor
though coverage in the papers was not limited to those pages.
Both similarities and differences were found in the presentation and
framing of political issues by the Black press and the general press of
Wichita in the mid-1890s. Political ideology and race affected the
presentation and framing of political issues.
Both similarities and differences existed in the presentation and framing
of political issues in the Black press and the general press of
the mid-1890s. Over a period of four months, from May 24 to Sept. 29,
1894, the Black press of Wichita addressed many of the same issues found
the mainstream press, though in varying amounts of coverage and degrees of
editorial support. During an 18-week period, the dominant issues covered
in the Black and mainstream press included the tariff on imports to
United States, labor, and civil rights. Though mentioned in both
newspapers, the issues of prohibition, monopolies and political party
fusion received less emphasis in the Black newspapers than the
In addition to the coverage of partisan issues, the Black newspapers
addressed concerns that were ignored or overlooked by the general press,
particularly the civil rights and social mobility issues that
Wichita's Black citizens. While these results validate previous
that identified the racial advocacy function of the Black press, this
research enhances that knowledge by examining how the racial advocacy
of the early Black press influenced the presentation of particular
In the presentation of the labor issue, the mainstream newspaper focused
on the benefit of strikes for union workers, while the Black
primarily appealed to the principle of racial equality to frame the
The Black press viewed the strikes as providing potential employment for
Black workers. Race also influenced the coverage of issues such as
rights and social mobility by the Black press. Political ideology
influenced other issues, such as the tariff and government corruption. Both
papers aligned themselves against the Populist party position. The Black
newspapers did not identify Black Americans as people encompassed
the Populist's concern for the common people.
Gamson and Lasch's (1983) interpretative package model used to identify
framing elements was useful in explicating the frames of political
found in 19th-century newspapers. Most of the signature elements were
applicable, except for visual images. The few political cartoons found
this study were limited to the Friend newspaper. In the 19th century,
journalistic objectivity was not valued by the press or the public.
Gamson and Lasch's (1983) method has been used primarily to analyze pres
ent-day media that value objectivity, the model also is useful in
political issues of the partisan press era. The lack of objectivity
criteria by the editors of the 1890s newspapers did not limit the
usefulness of the model. While historical analysis has been a primary
method used to study historical artifacts of a particular era, this
confirms the usefulness of the signature matrix in the empirical study
popular culture in the past. Use of both methods, historical analysis
content analysis, allows for a triangulation that permits the
see more clearly issues addressed by popular culture as defined by mass
media of a particular time period.
The early Black newspapers of Wichita played an important role in raising
issues of political and social concern. Clearly, the Friend served as
forum for the discussion of issues that were ignored by the mainstream
newspapers. One can deduce that the four main issues -- civil rights,
social mobility of the Black race, lynching, and the emigration of
-- were of particular concern to Wichita's Black citizens in 1894.
Yet, the role of the Friend was not limited to racial advocacy. The
newspapers also raised other current issues for their readers. While
of the same issues were presented in both the Black and mainstream
a number of the issues were framed differently in the Black
Armistead Pride (1956) stated nearly 40 years ago, Black newspapers
present news stories from the angle determined by the concern and interest
of its Black readership; yet, the Black press also has framed
issues in a similar manner to the mainstream press.
Gamson and Lasch's (1983) method of identifying the core frames and the
signature elements of interpretative framing packages provided clear
direction in isolating similarities and differences in the presentation of
the issues. The small number of extant copies of the newspapers
time frame for analysis and thus provides no more than a snapshot in time.
Further research needs to be done to apply this process to the analysis
of issues of other early newspapers of Wichita. Examining other
apers that were publishing during this time would provide other
or perspectives of Wichita's political climate. In particular,
Populist, Democratic, and other weekly papers would be insightful.
This research project has examined the issues of Wichita's political
climate during the mid-1890s. Both race and political and religious
ideology played key roles in the framing of political issues. Thus, these
factors account for both the similarities and differences in the
issues by the Black and general circulation press in the late-19th
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Issues in the Friend and the Star from May 24-Sept. 29, 1894
Newspapers FRIEND STAR
*Lynching 24 8
*Civil Rights 19 --
*Social Mobility for Blacks 13 --
*Back-to-Africa 6 --
Tariff on U.S. imports 97 126
Labor 69 117
Women's Suffrage 15 28
Monetary silver/gold 11 30
Government corruption 10 35
Taxes/income tax 8 16
Monopolies/private ownership 5 13
Prohibition 4 19
Immigration 4 5
Note. Dashes indicate the issue was not found. An asterisk (*) indicates
a race-related issues.
Table 1 continued on next page.
Table 1A (continued)
Issues in the Friend and the Star from May 24-Sept. 29, 1894
Newspapers FRIEND STAR
Political party fusion 2 11
Federal government spending -- 9
Civil service reform -- 1
Agricultural prices/irrigation -- 8
Pension for veterans -- 3
Foreign Trade -- 1
Prominent Issues in the Friend and the Star from May 24-Sept. 29, 1894
FRIEND Tariff 97
Civil Rights 19
STAR Tariff 126
Gov't Corruption 31
Signature Matrix for Tariff Issue: "Protectionism" Package
The issue is how tariffs affect US economy.
Protectionism benefits industry and people.
Tree of Protection,
APPEALS TO PRINCIPLE
High prices, low wages
Republican party loyalty
Signature Matrixes for Civil Rights Issue: " Negro Problem" and "Social
NEGRO PROBLEM PACKAGE
The issue is how prejudice dehumanizes Blacks.
Blacks deserve respect.
Mountain of prejudice
SOCIAL INJUSTICE PACKAGE
The issue is how Blacks are victims of discrimination.
Blacks deserve equal treatment and opportunity.
Refusal of serve at drugstore
APPEALS TO PRINCIPLE
Blacks treated less than men.
Blacks viewed as second-class citizens
Unemployment, idle young people
Discrimination is unchristian
 In order to provide continuity throughout this paper, the term "Black
is used to be inclusive of all references to African A
Afro-American, Negro, and colored as connotative terms
. I have chosen this
form to follow the precedent of historian Roland Wo
lseley (1990) in The
Black Press, U.S.A., a survey of the Bla
ck press. The term "mainstream"
designates general circulati
 Henceforth, The People's Friend and The Kansas Star, wi
ll be referred
to as the Friend and the Star.