Title Reviewed:
A Black National News Service: The Associated Negro Press and Claude Barnett, 1919–1945

Author Reviewed:
Lawrence D. Hogan

Michael W. Homel


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 81, Issue 1, pp 87-88

Article Type:
Book Review

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A Black National News Service: The Associated Negro Press and Claude Barnett, 1919–1945. By Lawrence D. Hogan. (Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1984. Pp. 260. Notes, illustrations, bibliography, index. $27.50.)

Inspired by the success of nationally circulated black newspapers such as the ChicagoDefender, Claude Barnett launched Associated Negro Press (19191, a black analog of Associated Press and United Press International. For forty-five years ANPs small staff reliably distributed a large quantity of well-written news and feature stories to member newspapers. Relying heavily upon volunteers and poorly paid stringers, ANP covered black civic life and leadership, national politics and government, black entertainment and sports, and developments in Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean.

Barnett dreamed of having a large, full-time, salaried staff with bureaus in major cities. He hoped to add comics, editorial cartoons, photographs, and a pictorial magazine to his news and feature service. Moreover, Barnett sought a reciprocal relationship with member newspapers in which they would send news to ANP, thus shaping the wire service to their needs. None of this came to be. Afraid of aiding competing papers, Barnett's clients did not accept reciprocity and therefore never strongly identified with ANP. Black publishers not only refused to fund expanded staff and services but delayed or omitted paying basic ANP fees. Accordingly, Barnett turned to the Republican party and private foundations to finance his agency. Political money and Barnett's own partisan activity compromised his goal of news objectivity and further weakened client loyalty, as editors reasoned that ANP could survive without them. Thus, ANP remained Barnett's personal enterprise instead of representing black journalism as a whole.

By discussing these problems and describing ANP's operations, Lawrence D. Hogan adds to knowledge of the golden age of black journalism. Had Hogan also examined ANP from its clients' perspective, readers might have learned more of what ANP meant to its subscribers and whether its members' stubborn individualism was indeed the main reason for their weak support of ANP. After all, black newspapers cooperated to form a rival news service during World War II. Perhaps Barnett's emphasis on "constructive news" was less appealing to readers than the sensationalism he shunned. Hogan does not always critically probe Barnett's motives, stressing his dedication to ANP but also mentioning action to the contrary (Barnett's attempt to buy the Defender and his accepting a federal job). One also wishes that Hogan had written a full-length chapter covering 1945 to 1964; his five-page sketch of that period suggests that 1945 was neither the end of ANP nor the most appropriate termination point for this study. Finally, this book suffers from inadequate editing, leaving such lapses as an awkwardly arranged bibliography and a half-dozen misspelled andlor incorrect names (pp. 25, 97, 125, 131, 240, 250).

Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti Michael W. Homel

Published by the Indiana University Department of History.