Allen University to host symposium on the Black press and Civil Rights on March 31, 2022

By: Tiana Scarlett

Allen University will host the SC Black Press Institute Symposium on Thursday, March 31, 2022, in Chappelle Auditorium. The symposium will bring together students, scholars, media professionals and activists for a day of networking and learning about the past, present and future of African American media.

Featured speakers include:

CNN analyst Bakari Sellers, 

SC State House Representative and publisher Wendy Brawley, 

Pioneering civil rights activist and photojournalist Cecil Williams, 

Author Sid Bedingfield, 

Free Times columnist Preach Jacobs, 

Charleston Activist Network podcast host Mika Gadsden,

Columbia-based photojournalist Crush Rush.

The SC Black Press Institute Symposium was developed through a National Park Service African American Civil Rights History grant Allen University received in 2020. The grant was awarded to support the development of educational materials and programming that focus on the relationship between the Black press in South Carolina and the emergence of the Civil Rights movement in the 1940s.

“John Henry McCray published a newspaper called The Lighthouse and Informer from an office right across the street from Allen’s campus that helped initiate Civil Rights campaigns throughout the South,” said Dr. Kevin Trumpeter, Allen University’s Dean of Arts and Humanities. “One goal for this event is to highlight how vital Black-owned media were for inspiring and sustaining Civil Rights activism not just in South Carolina, but nationally.”

Sid Bedingfield, a professor of journalism at the University of Minnesota and author of Newspaper Wars: Civil Rights and White Resistance in South Carolina, 1935-1965, will provide the symposium’s keynote address. His talk will address the Civil Rights campaigns that John Henry McCray and other African American publishers helped create through their writing and political organizing.

The symposium will feature a plenary talk by Cecil Williams, who began working as a photographer for Jet magazine in the 1950s. Williams photography, which has since been collected and republished in books like Out-of-the-Box in Dixie, documented some of the most important Civil Rights initiatives in the state. His photographic coverage of the Briggs v. Elliott case helped publicize the lawsuit and the violent backlash the African American plaintiffs endured for speaking out against segregated schooling.

The symposium will also explore how African American journalism has evolved in response to changes in media over the past few decades. While some of the panelist continue to work in traditional print and broadcast media, others use a variety of new technology such as social media apps and podcasts to build community around their causes.

“The media landscape looks very different now than it did when John McCray was publishing his paper, but he’d find current reports on voter suppression, police brutality, mass incarceration and racial disparities in access to education, health care, and employment all too familiar,” said Dr. Trumpeter. “The symposium will address the ways in which contemporary Black media professionals and activists are using new technologies to combat persistent issues of racial injustice.”

Participants can find more details about the event and register through

Black Press | John Henry McCray ProjectThe John Henry McCray Project is dedicated to helping commemorate the substantial contributions that newspaper publisher and political activist John Henry McCray made to the Civil Rights movement in South Carolina during the mid-20th