Gossip in Black Periodicals
Gossip might seem too frivololous a topic for Black periodicals during the era of Civil War and Reconstruction. A closer look at these sources, however, reveals a diversity of content and of voices that belies any preconceived notion of a "single issue" Black press focused first on abolitionism and then Jim Crow. Instead, gossip, social news, and travel reports can be found across a wide spectrum of Black periodicals (here defined as those run by a majority Black staff and written primarily for Black readers), complementing political editorials, international news, and advice features. Gossip and its equivalents allowed editors and journalists to entertain, eduate, and inspire their readers by sharing achievements and missteps, often presented with personal commentary, humor, or moral judgement – as would be typical of oral gossip shared. This exhibit highlights some of the central publications, columns, and journalists (e.g. Lillian A. Lewis) who relied on gossip and related forms of writing that crossed that public/private boundary and thus enhanced the community-building aspect of postbellum Black periodicals.
- For an analysis of the uses of gossip in the antebellum period, we recommend "'Gadding,' 'Gainsaying,' and Negotiating Gossip in the Antebellum Black Press" by Erica L. Ball (published in When Private Talk Goes Public. Gossip in American History, Palgrave, 2014).
- For examples of critical takes on gossip in postbellum periodicals (white and Black), see the exhibit "Writing (About) Gossip"