News on the Margins

“We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.”
-Rev. Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwurm, Freedom’s Journal, March 16, 1827

“An army of lovers shall not fail.”
-Jeanne Córdova, Lesbian Tide, April 1973

Educopia Institute is helping the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) to develop two digital directories:

  • A Digital Directory of African American Newspapers and Periodicals (print, microfilm, and digital formats)
  • A Digital Directory of LGBT Newspapers and Periodicals (print, microfilm, and digital formats)

In this project, we are creating and releasing an open data collection framework and methodology for information about newspapers by and for marginalized communities. We are also producing and releasing (openly and freely) two datasets: a digital directory of African American newspapers and a digital directory of LGBT newspapers. Finally, we are producing a synthesis of the project’s findings and recommendations for next steps, including priorities for aggregation and other tasks DPLA might undertake in the future to increase access to these crucial historical sources.

This is a field-wide collaborative effort to track and record crucial information about existing copies of newspapers and periodicals by and for African Americans and by and for LGBT people. To succeed, we need participation from libraries, archives, and museums of all sizes, types, and statures. Whether you have one page or full runs, your content matters and needs to be represented.

We know this is a big project. We also know the perfect is the enemy of the good. We’re not looking for perfection; just for participation. Please join us!



  • Data collection framework and methodology for information about newspapers by and for marginalized communities
  • African American Newspaper Directory
  • LGBT Newspaper Directory
  • White paper synthesizing findings and recommendations
  • Contribute to planning for a meeting of stakeholders to discuss next steps (November 2017)


  • July 1-Aug 13: Develop and refine data collection framework and methodology
  • Aug 14-Sept 30: Data gathering with the archives/libraries/museums communities, with journalists and publishers, and with activists and scholars
  • Oct 1-31: Finalize datasets; develop synthesis of findings and recommendations

Newspapers and periodicals authored by and for marginalized communities arguably number among our most important historical collections in libraries and archives today. Researchers have long relied on news sources by and for marginalized groups—from African American newspapers to labor union publications, from temperance newspapers to refugee periodicals, and from lesbian ‘zines to religious serials—to reveal the density of perspectives and experiences embedded in U.S. local and national cultures.

The voices of marginalized communities, including those defined by such identity markers as skin color, ethnic origin, religious affiliation, sexuality, geography, and social class, are often invisible in mainstream news sources. Understanding the diverse experiences of people in the United States requires us to turn to sources written, produced, and disseminated by the broadest possible constellation of people.

Archives, libraries, and museums have rarely collected these sources at the time that they were published. Instead, community members have typically saved these newspapers in attics, closets, and basements; their value for the historical record is often recognized by archives, libraries, and museums many years after their production. Once these sources are collected, they are often cataloged and provided in individual organizational frameworks, making them very difficult to track across libraries and archives.

This project seeks to activate the power and passion of archivists, librarians, and curators to collaboratively and comprehensively record where these resources are, what condition they are in, what formats they include, and what level of accessibility they have for the public. Beginning in mid-August, the project team will launch a nationwide campaign to record this information, archive by archive, library by library, and museum by museum, using crowdsourcing technologies and methodologies. Working together across the field, we can build a collective understanding of what content exists and where it is. Once this is known, the archives, library, and museum communities will be able to make informed decisions regarding how to ensure the broadest possible access to and use of this content.

Educopia has undertaken this project as a subcontractor on DPLA’s 2015-2017 John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Grant to Research Potential Integration of Newspaper Content into DPLA. For more information on the larger effort underway at the DPLA, please see:

Project Advisors:
This project would not be possible without the help of so many of you. Special thanks go to the project's informal but very real advisors, including:

  • Franky Abbot (DPLA)
  • Cheryl Ball (West Virginia University)
  • Randall Burkett (Emory University)
  • James Danky (University of Wisconsin)
  • Emily Gore (DPLA)
  • Nick Graham (UNC Chapel Hill)
  • Reinette Jones (UKY)
  • Ana Krahmer (UNT)
  • Sam Meister (Educopia)
  • Jessica Meyerson (Educopia)
  • Nancy McGovern (MIT)
  • Cal Shepard (State Library of North Carolina)
  • Kopana Terry (UKY)
  • Tyler Walters (Virginia Tech)
  • Rochelle Williams (Gather Consulting)