Africa’s media pioneers

In both West and East Africa the birth of African journalism came as a result of collective colonial resistance with a crop of missionary educated elites leading the movement. While most intellectuals were content with quietly building their enterprises and serving their communities in their professional capacities, it was the newspapermen and women who broke new ground and developed a unique voice to address community concerns.

Liberia first saw a group of editors and journalists in the late 1820s, then Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast in the 1850s – 1860s. Lagos, Nigeria was to see its first regular newspaper in the 1880s, while Senegal which was known to have been more sophisticated surprisingly made the last entry in 1885.

Hilary Teague (1802 – May 21, 1853) was a devoted Liberian merchant, journalist and politician. He and African thinkers such as Edward Wilmot Blyden, were both known to have made impacts in different parts of the continent. Bylden was an originator of several journals as well as an occasional editor in Monrovia and Freetown; he was also a prolific contributor to a range of English-language newspapers in West Africa.

This year, we will explore the launch of the African newspapers in different parts of the continent, with a full understanding that most of them were published with limited resources. The proprietors who often ran the presses, served as journalists as well as editors, and were committed to articulating their positions and communities’ socio-political concerns as they recorded the intellectual history of Africa’s quest for freedom, liberty, and social progress.

Teague and Blyden are but two examples. There are many others of the same ilk who have hardly been profiled, including the remarkable Kitoyi Ajasa who was a director and owner of The Nigerian Pioneer. Our journey will also take us to East Africa where Ellen Mocrai of Ethiopia and The Juba Post’s star Apollonia Mathia of South Sudan will share their narratives.

Here in South Africa, we plan on unearthing a handful of small town publications such as Alice Times, which first appeared in 1878 associated with publisher William Dewey. Then there is Farmer’s Chronicle of Cathcart that came out in 1889, amongst others.

Manasseh Tebatso Moerane born in 1913, was a journalist, teacher and intellectual and would become an editor of The World in 1963. His rich academic background and history of public service and political activism makes him one of the most interesting characters to profile. Closer to home The Times of Swaziland, was born in 1897 and we get up-close and personal with its editor Allister Miller.

We will breath life into the Pioneers section bringing you some BIG interviews with those who are still alive such as Joyce Sikhakhane-Rankin, the first black woman journalist. And we will even revisit the families and descendants of those we have previously profiled, to give us insights into their legacies. This year promises to be explorative as we uncover the history of the making of African journalism.

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