Ebony Magazine, Lerone Bennett, Jr., and the Making and Selling of Modern Black History, 1958-1987

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Edmund West

Abstract

This thesis is concerned with the ways in which Ebony magazine sought to recover, popularise and utilise black history between the late 1950s and the late 1980s. The dominant scholarly approach to Ebony has focused on the magazine's bourgeois values and visual aesthetics, and has ignored its importance as a creator and disseminator of black history. By contrast, I highlight the multiple ways in which black history became central to Ebony's content from the late 1950s onwards. Far from viewing Ebony as peripheral to or simply reflective of popular debates into the black past, I place the magazine at the heart of contestations between the corporate, philosophical and political uses of black history during the second half of the twentieth century. In Ebony, this shift was quarterbacked by Lerone Bennett Jr., the magazine's senior editor and in-house historian. Bennett's emergence as a prominent black historian and intellectual, and his increased desire to present history 'from a black perspective', was paralleled by Ebony's broader move from a more politicised to a more market-driven moment. Rooted in my unique position as the first scholar to look at Bennett's unprocessed papers at Chicago State University, and one of the first researchers to examine Bennett's collections at Emory University, this thesis sheds new light on the work of Bennett, on Ebony's significance as a 'history book' for millions of readers, and on the magazine's place at the centre of post-war debates into the form and function of African-American history.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award date1 Aug 2016