Friday, April 22, 2011

 

Obscurity of the Day: Your History

By far the most popular and long-lived of the historical/inspirational features of the black papers was Your History by pioneering historian J.A. Rogers. It seems to have been syndicated out of the Pittsburgh Courier but ran in quite a few black papers across the country over the years. Rogers was much admired for his research into black history, but  sometimes came under fire, or at least gentle ridicule, for his very far-reaching definition of 'blackness'. He considered most Middle Easterners, for instance, to be black.

Your History was a delightful and yet instructive mix of Ripley's-style items and more serious history. The feature began on November 10 1934, with art initially by George L. Lee. Lee wasn't much of an artist, or at least was a bad choice for a feature that depended on realistic illustrations. He doggedly stuck with it, though, until July 31 1937 when the feature went on a long hiatus.

On November 16 1940 the feature returned to the pages of the Courier under the more professional collaborative brush of Samuel Milai. Milai was better able to handle the art chores, though even he was much more at home with more traditional cartooning.

The title of the feature changed to Facts About the Negro in 1962, for unknown reasons (my guess is that the title change signaled that the feature had gone to reprints). Rogers died in 1966, but the feature was carried by the Courier regularly until February 13 1971, and popped up occasionally after that.

Your History is a rarity among black newspaper features in that it was actually published in book form. Rogers self-published quite a few books of his prose work, so it was only natural that he also published Your History in book form as well. The first book, titled Your History, was published in 1940, and Facts About the Negro around 1960 (it carried no publication date).

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