In 1826 Charles Force, an American freed slave, published the Liberia Herald. He died some months later, but the title was revived in 1830 by Edward Blyden, the anti-colonial thinker and academic, who moved from the Caribbean island of St. Thomas to Liberia. This marked the beginning of an African press which was critical of the European presence in Africa.
From the mid-19th century onwards a number of papers were published in Luanda, Angola, by a distinct group of educated, mixed race (mesticos) Angolans. Jose de Fontes Pereira and Joaquim Dias Cordeiro da Matta were regular contributors, writing articles highly critical of Portuguese rule.
West African newspapers
"We were favoured with sight of the beautiful baptismal present our beloved Queen has made to the infant of Mrs. J.P. L. Davies of Lagos, a lady well known as having enjoyed the high honour of being a protégé of her majesty... The cup and salver are both inscribed as follows: To Victoria Davies Queen Victoria." - Excerpt from the Anglo African newsletter, 3 Oct 1863, on the occasion of the birth of a baby born to the leading African trader J.P.L. Davies and his wife, who was goddaughter to the Queen.
In 1926 in Lagos, Nigeria's most enduring and popular newspaper, The Nigeria Daily Times was published. Its editor, Ernest Ikoli, was also head of the renowned school, King's College, Lagos, and considered an outstanding man in his day. The paper was published on a sound commercial basis, carrying a lot of expatriate advertising, but it could be critical of the colonial establishment:
"... the appointment of Mr. O Jibowu MA BCL Oxon as Police Magistrate in Lagos is no more than an experiment...It is astonishing that no African has been found qualified to be on the judicial staff in the newly constituted Protectorate Courts." - Daily Times, 12 Dec 1936.
West Africa magazine
In 1927 Azikwe established the West African Pilot in Lagos. Its lively mix of radical politics, gossip, plus a woman's page proved very popular. The Comet was another popular Nigerian publication. Edited by a radical Egyptian, Duse Mohammed Ali, who had been educated in London. The Comet kept a keen eye on events at home and abroad.
"Sin-possessed and intoxicated with authority, Mussolini, the Fascist Dictator with his "smash and grab" doctrine of civilisation has announced his East African spoils to the world. He is also said to be having his hands in the Spanish mists. This is as should be expected of a child of darkness - he must always be found in the misty corners of the world. There by him we find his brother Hitler, the German dictator, dreaming his usual daydreams - a German Empire, with Russia as his armrest; France as his footstool, England as his manufacturing nation, and the colonies as labourers to work in his Nazi vineyard. His continuous dream is of world subjugation..." - The Comet, 5 Dec 1936.
In French West Africa the press was dominated by French publishers. The first major African publication was La Voix du Dahomey in 1927. More papers followed in Ivory Coast and Senegal.
The African run-press in East Africa took off in the 1920s and 1930s. One of the earliest known newspapers in an African language was Sekanyola, published in 1920, written in Luganda and aimed at the Baganda in Uganda and Kenya.
The Kampala suburb Katwe was known as the Fleet Street of Uganda; other Luganda titles included Gambuze which came out in 1927 and Dobzi Iya Buganda in 1928. The first Gikuyu paper was Muigwithania which was initially published in 1925 and was edited by the future President of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta. He also sponsored other political publications in Gikuyu. The other notable Swahili title was Kwetu, edited by Muganda Eric Fiah.
In 1903, John L. Dube, later to be President of the ANC, published Ilanga Lase Natal. Once the ANC became established as the leading opponent to white rule, it voiced its concerns primarily through the publication Abantu Batho. It survived attempts to close it down by the authorities, but finally folded for financial reasons.
The fortunes of the African press in South Africa reflected the slow and uneven march towards segregation and the loss of rights experienced by black South Africans.
The main newspaper group to emerge in the 1930s was The Argus Group. It saw profit in publishing titles for black as well as white readers. It bought up the Bantu Press, which had a number of successful titles read by black South Africans, and removed all the Africans employed in management. By World War II there were only three black owned and edited newspapers, two of which were published by the Communist Party of South Africa, including the Socialist Worker. During the years leading up to the Second World War all the newspapers - both European and African - keenly observed events in Europe and debated the implications for Africa. When the war was in progress the newspaper in English and French colonial Africa broadly supported the Allies - only a few spoke out against supporting the war effort.
Your country needs you!
Not for learning how to shoot the big howitzers
Or how to rat tat tat the machine guns
Or how to fly o'er peaceful countries
Dropping bombs on harmless people
Or how to fix a bayonet and charge at
The harmless workers of another clime
Your country needs you
For the rebuilding of your shattered homeland -
Your homeland ruined by exploitation
By the tyrants of foreign nations
Who would use you as their catspaw
While they starved you to subjection.
- George Padmore's pacifist poem, published in the African Standard, 28 July 1939, two months before war broke out.
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