Five Fascinating Facts About Ethnic Media

Abraham Lincoln in 1860

Presidential hopeful Abraham Lincoln, as photographed by Mathew Brady in 1860.

1. Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer, a brilliant debater, a state legislator, a member of the U.S. Congress and the 16th president of the United States. He was also a newspaper publisher.

In 1859, filled with presidential aspirations, Abraham Lincoln recognized that the road to the White House went through the German American community in his hometown of Springfield, Ill. To help his chances, Lincoln paid $400 for the German-language newspaper, the Illinois Staats-Anzeiger, to court German-speaking voters in and around Springfield. He also hired the paper's editor, Theodore Canisius, to campaign for him in German communities across the state. After he won the White House, Lincoln gave the newspaper to Canisius.

The contract signed by Lincoln that gives the newspaper to Canisius is one of the rare artifacts that will also be featured in the exhibit.

Photo: Mathew Brady/Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

Pullman porter stepstool and bottle openers

Pullman Porter stepstool and bottle openers.

2. Black railroad porters helped keep The Chicago Defender circulating in the segregated South when the newspaper was banned.

From the day it was founded in 1905, the Defender was one of the most influential black-owned newspapers in the country. In the mid-1900s, publisher Robert Sengstacke Abbott urged blacks to leave the South for better opportunities in the North, causing the newspaper to be confiscated and banned in the South. To keep the Defender circulating in the South, Abbott asked the Pullman sleeping car porters to drop bundles of newspapers at key locations. Many blacks shared their stories of discrimination with the porters, who then told Abbott, making the Pullman porters unofficial news correspondents. A platform stool and bottle openers used by the Pullman porters are on display in the exhibit.

Photo: Sarah Mercier/Newseum; stool: Loan, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture; bottle openers: Loan, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, Gift of Descendants of Robert & Georgia Thomas, Pulaski, Tenn.

Bill Hosokawa

Editor Bill Hosokawa working on the Heart Mountain Sentinel.

3. Japanese Americans published 20 newspapers inside detention camps during World War II.

Despite being rounded up by the U.S. government and forced into camps after Japan's 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese American journalists kept news flowing. The Heart Mountain Sentinel, located at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming, was one of 20 newspapers that chronicled life inside the camps under the watchful eye of government officials. Seattle-born editor Bill Hosokawa ran the Sentinel during the 18 months he was imprisoned. The newspaper ceased publication in 1945. An original copy of the Sentinel will be on display in "One Nation With News for All."

Photo: Courtesy Bill Hosokawa


Photographer Octavio Gómez.

4. A Mexican American photographer struck a victory for press freedom when he successfully sued the U.S. government for seizing his camera while he covered an immigration protest.

The first lawsuit ever filed on behalf of Spanish-language media became a victory for all journalists' right to do their jobs without interference. In 1981, Mexican American photographer Octavio Gómez was covering immigration protests for La Opinión newspaper in Los Angeles when Immigration and Naturalization Service agents took his camera and press pass and demanded proof of citizenship. The newspaper and Gómez, a naturalized citizen, sued the INS, and were awarded nearly $300,000 in damages.

Photo: Courtesy La Opinión Archives

press passes

These press passes were used by leading ethnic journalists, including Korean American reporter K.W. Lee and Spanish-language news anchors María Elena Salinas and Jorge Ramos.

5. One in four Americans now turns to ethnic media for news.

More than 3,000 ethnic media organizations provide the news today in languages from Amharic to Hmong to Yiddish, providing a bridge between immigrants, their homelands and their new country as well as a crucial community link for minorities.

Photo: Sarah Mercier/Newseum; Lee press passes: Loan, Kyung W. Lee; Salinas press pass: Gift, María Elena Salinas; Ramos press pass: Gift, Jorge Ramos, Univision News

"One Nation With News for All" will be open at the Newseum from May 16, 2014, through Jan. 4, 2015.

    • Tickets to DC's Top Attractions
    • Washington News Museum Annual Pass
    • Today's Front Pages
    • Shop Online
  • Support the Newseum
  • Places to Visit in Washington, DC near the National Mall
  • Press Info
  • General Info
Related Links:
  • Freedom Forum


See what others say about Newseum on TripAdvisor.