In February 2022, the University announced a $2 million gift from the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation to the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center to support the digitization of the center’s “Black Press Archives,” a collection of Black newspapers donated to Howard by the National Newspapers Publishing Association (NNPA).
Now, one year later, Brandon Nightingale, a trained historian, serves as the Black Press Archive’s project manager, overseeing the mission of digitalizing Moorland-Spingarn's microfilm and physical newspaper holdings with the help of a student cohort.
“When the grant was written, we were able to protect the legacy of the Black Press with the money received from the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation,” Nightingale says.
Once the money was received from the Jonathan Logan Family, Nightingale hired 14 student employees, a mix of undergraduate and graduate students at the university. Camille Vincent was Nightingale’s first hire. Described as a "one-of-a-kind" opportunity, Vincent is a second-year Ph.D. student in U.S. public history. Vincent's dissertation focuses on black education after reconstruction for newly freed slaves in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
"This is a unique experience for us," Vincent says. The study of Black newspapers will become easier once everything is digitized, and this is something that needs to be done. It's a learning process for us all as we learn about digitalization and how it can be used in archives, in library science, and at any institution of higher education."
The 14 students selected to work on this project shared their thoughts on their roles in the Black Press Archives program and aspirations for the future of this critical work.
“They do some amazing, amazing work.” Nightingale says.
Yasmine Grier, Senior honors political science major
BPA Role: Quality control
“My greater goals center narratives highlighting Black women's roles within social movements and the political socialization that contributes to their identity building. My work with the Black Press Archives project allows me to better understand the role media plays in an individual establishing or articulating their personal values. I'm hoping to help lay the groundwork for the project. Since it has multiple stages, it's exciting to start the initial scanning to establish guidelines for maximum efficiency in the future, as well as outline potential ideas and plans. While I will only be on the project for one semester of my undergraduate experience, working on the Black Press Archives Digitization Project is showing me the beauty of what Howard has to offer and, simultaneously, the amazing opportunities and wealth of knowledge that exist abroad.”
Miriam Hagan, PhD candidate, nutritional science
BPA Role: Newspaper digitization technician
“Being involved in the digitization of the Black Press Archives provides an opportunity to serve humanity, and at the core of the work, is service to the individual being. Media is a tool to fight injustices, so I am happy to be a part of work with that scope of impact. Prior to this project, my knowledge of (Black) history was quite vague, I believe this project will afford me the opportunity to immerse myself into the fabric of culture and history.”
Olawálé Kuponipe, Master’s degree candidate in educational leadership and policy studies
BPA Role: Storage systems technician
“This partnership spiritually grounds my aspiration to become a changemaker in global education policy. Because my primary focus is creating sustainable relationships between HBCUs and African higher education institutions in the form of exchange programs for undergraduate and graduate students, the project exemplifies the essence of the preservation and ownership of the African Diaspora story. Through the scanning process of microfilm and newspapers, I seek to create and establish efficient standard operating procedures for future participants and changemakers on the project and utilize the digitized resources to inform global education policy collaboratively.”
Joseph Sturgeon III, junior history major
BPA Role: Quality control intern
“I believe newspapers are the historiography of the current. To chronicle history that centers on Black people, it is only natural that the Black Press should be accessible for those who need to cite it. I know that the Black Press is central to my work, and that is how it fits into my goals. The project is large, so I'm aware that I will be long gone before the project is fully realized, but I am really looking forward to even seeing just a portion of our digitized newspapers be made available to the public. To me, that's the most exciting part of the project.
Amber Nunnery, senior sports medicine major
BPA Role: Social media intern
“After graduating In May, I plan on utilizing the skills I have obtained working in the Black Press Archives to pursue a career in marketing. During this project, I plan to extend my knowledge of the Black Press while educating the public on my findings through different communication strategies such as social media, press releases, and other planned content. This opportunity has been a great way to bring my journey at Howard to a close. Not only have I gained valuable professional experience but I have also been able to form invaluable connections with my Black Press Archives teammates.
Brandon Brown – Doctoral candidate in higher education leadership & policy studies
BPA Role: Communications chair
“The Black Press Archives project provides me with the invaluable opportunity to put these goals into practice as I support the development of a resource (the Archive's digital repository) that will undoubtedly shape and support research by and about, Black life and culture for years to come. My primary goal is rooted in supporting the development of a digital repository chronicling the work of the diasporic Black press. In addition to that, as an educator, it is always my goal to increase awareness. Through our communication channels, intentional collaborations at the university, and strategic partnerships beyond campus, I believe more people will become aware of the work and continued impact of the Black Press.”
Ajali Jones – Second year sociology doctoral candidate
BPA Role: Digital strategist
“I would love to become a professor. Therefore, understanding the array of materials housed here at Howard will allow me to better understand topics relevant to the black experience to educate future scholars. My desire is to discover materials that can be displayed to the public to educate various populations of the black experience. As I discover valuable materials as a BPA team member, I am also discovering materials that are useful to my academic endeavors. As I learn about various events and individuals, I am able to apply that knowledge to my scholarly work.”
Fahtim'a Yaro - Second year doctoral history student
BPA Role: Inventory management specialist
“In the future, I plan to become a history professor. This partnership aligns with my larger career goals because primary sources are essential for historians, and I’m receiving exposure on a regular basis. I’m sure my time exploring and cataloging these Black-owned publications will come in handy for my research and those I will instruct in the future. During this project, I hope to continue gaining confidence in leadership roles while honing my problem-solving skills.”
Leona Lavong – Communications sciences and disorders
BPA Role: Podcast Co-Producer and Inventory Technician
“This partnership has helped me to broaden my scope within my field. I am able to connect stories from papers or microfilm to my clients and their stories (especially older clients). It has also allowed me to discover a new love of history I hadn't had before this position. I hope to assist in laying the foundation for a project that will positively impact the African/African American community for years to come. The project also keeps me excited for the future and what it has in store for me and the project.”
Charles A. Anderson – PhD Student; higher education leadership and policies studies
BPA Role: Podcast producer and inventory specialist
“I look to expand my knowledge surrounding Black thoughts throughout history. It aligns with my career goals because it allows me to learn about the workings of a part of a university that is geared towards academia. It also allows me to explore my interests in history. Howard has consistently provided me the opportunity to work in spaces that allow me to engage with education in new and different ways, and working on the Black Press Archives digitization project is a continuation of that.”
Kaitlin Rogers – Second year master’s history student
BPA Role: Documentary technician
“The opportunity to work at a premier archive like Moorland-Spingarn with a special collection like the Black press newspaper collection was a dream come true. I am learning so much about how archives preserve artifacts and make those materials available to researchers. I also am learning about the digitization process, which is the future of the archives field. As a scanning technician in the project's first year, I hope to help establish clear and effective operating procedures that we can use in subsequent years. We also hope to complete a portion of the overall scanning this year and are off to a good start thus far.”
Evangeline Duppins – PhD Student Higher Education Leadership Policy Studies
BPA Role: Microfilm digitization technician
“My purpose is to help the next generation of Black scholars. Being a part of HU Black Press fosters opportunities to gain access to priceless knowledge and facilitate programs to educate our communities. This experience will equip me with the wisdom to share with my future students. I look to incite curiosity within Black history and the exploration of our ancestors and their accomplishments. Our untold heroes and sheroes deserve to be recognized and remembered for their contributions to the Black community. I plan to display Black figures in an artistic light through programs and exhibits. Bridging the gap between art and history.”