Friday, October 18, 2013

African American newspapers to be preserved, made public in Virginia

STAUNTON — For Jennifer Vickers, the printed word is personal.

Lately she’s been perusing some newspapers, the oldest of which were published about a century ago. But the distance lies only in the years: these papers are filled with stories of her relatives, and they were delivered to the same West Johnson Street address in Staunton where Vickers — fourth generation — lives today.

Vickers pointed to a story from 1916 that depicted a great uncle, Raymond Johnson, who was hit with a baseball and died on the train waiting for treatment. “For me, it makes things come alive,” she said. “It feels like my grandmother’s brother is alive, because I can read how the church reacted when he died.”

Vickers has sold the five African-American newspaper issues, ranging in publication dates from 1916 to 1931, to the Augusta County Genealogical Society. The society is donating them to the Library of Virginia — a move that will become official on Wednesday.

Errol Somay, director of the library’s Virginia Newspaper Project, will deliver a presentation at 1 p.m. in the Waynesboro Public Library about newspapers in the state, with specific discussion about African-American newspapers.

Laten Bechtel, chairperson of the society’s African American Committee, said the Library of Virginia doesn’t have the funding to purchase the newspapers but will be able to preserve and display them.

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