Saturday, July 21, 2012

A visit to Cleveland’s oldest black-owned newspaper Call & Post


By Rachael van der Kooye

At the beginning of this week was the first of the three cultural tours offered to the SUSI scholars on media and journalism by the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, a faculty of Ohio University.
Visiting Call & Post
The tour lasted five days. During those days the scholars executed media and cultural activities in Cleveland/Ohio and  Pittsburgh/Pennsylvania. So except Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, they have also visited an 95 years old African American weekly newspaper in Cleveland named Call & Post. ,,The readership of the newspaper is not only black. The majority of the people in Ohio loves to read what black people are doing,” Constance Harper, Call & Post’s associate publisher/editor said. The newspaper was established in 1929 by a group of people including local African-American inventor Garrett A. Morgan (1877 – 1963), as a merger between the Cleveland Call and the Cleveland Post, two newspapers which had been serving the African American community since 1916 and 1920 respectively.

The inventor

Morgan was the son of former slaves, born in Paris, Kentucky on March 4, 1877. While still a teenager, he left Kentucky and moved north to Cincinnati, Ohio in search of opportunity. In 1895 Morgan moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he went to work as a sewing machine repair man for a clothing manufacturer. In 1907 he opened his own sewing equipment and repair shop. It was the first of several businesses he would establish. In 1914 he invented a device called the Morgan safety hood and smoke protector, now called the gas mask.

On July 25, 1916 Morgan made national news for using his gas mask to rescue 32 men trapped during an explosion in an underground tunnel 250 feet beneath Lake Erie. Morgan and a team of volunteers donned the new 'gas masks' and went to the rescue. After the rescue Morgan's company received requests from fire departments around the country who wished to purchase the new masks. But when people found out that it was a black man who invented the gas mask they stopped buying them. "They rather let their people die than rescue them by a gas mask of a black man,"  Harper explained in a conversation with the SUSI scholars. According to her Morgan established the Cleveland Call in 1920 to publish his invention. Morgan is also the inventor of the traffic signal and the zig-zag stitching attachment for manually operated sewing machine.

One of the most influential voices

Conny Harper edits reports at her desk
In 1929 the Call & Post was created because of financial problems. Three years later Cleveland City Councilman William O. Walker took over as editor and publisher, transforming the struggling publication until his death in 1981 into one of the most influential voices for black Clevelanders. The newspaper endured several periods of financial hardship in its history, and in 1996, it sold its East 105th Street home. Now, the paper is owned and published by boxing promoter Don King. The Call & Post provided extensive coverage of the social and religious life in the African-American community, and is known to feature sensational coverage of violence on its front page. "Once some black girls went missing and we covered some of those missing. Later it turned out that these girls were killed and the killer buried their bodies in his backyard several backyards away from our newspaper," one of the Call & Post reporters told the SUSI scholars. Now the newspaper has a circulation of 28.000 per week all over Ohio and subscriptions all over the country. "We are fortunate to be able to say that we are a continues publication, " Harper said.  According to her the stories in the newspaper are not always stories of African Americans, but they have to have a view of African Americans, so that the children who grow up know the history. They will promote everybody who are in the same position as African Americans. All people who want to have their freedom.

1 comment:

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