The Black Press: Soldiers without Swords

Director: Stanley Nelson
Screenwriters: Lou Potter

Institute History

  • 1999 Sundance Film Festival


With a wealth of information, The Black Press: Soldiers without Swords magnificently ties black history together while tracing the dramatic ascent of black-owned newspapers in this country. Divided into five parts, The Black Press brings this little-known history and its unsung heroes to life by weaving archival footage, photographs, headlines, and interviews, together with a lively narration by Joe Morton.

From their inception in the early 1800s through peak readership during World War II, black-owned, operated, and distributed newspapers had a profound effect on the African American community. In addition to giving blacks a voice, these newspapers also vividly documented African American life in this country. More than simply reporting the news, the papers played an active role in facilitating changes that impacted millions of lives, like the “great migration” of southern blacks to northern cities. When southern towns tried to block the papers’ dissemination of information by banning them, an underground network went to work to keep them available.

Black-owned newspapers also offered readers a different view from what was reported in the mainstream press. During World War II, the Double V campaign, spearheaded by the Pittsburgh Courier, linked the struggle against fascism abroad to the one against segregation at home, essentially laying the groundwork for the Civil Rights movement. In this extremely high-quality production, award-winning producer/director Stanley Nelson has created a striking, serious, and informative film, generously peppered with captivating human touches.

Stanley Nelson, Director
An award-winning filmmaker, Stanley Nelson has more than twenty years experience as a producer, director, and writer of documentary films and videos. His television and film credits include What Can We Do about Violence?, Listening to America with Bill Moyers, and Two Dollars and a Dream: The Story of Madame C.J. Walker. His awards include multiple CINE Golden Eagles and Emmy nominations and the Best Film of the Decade Award from the Black Filmmakers Foundation.

— Lisa Viola

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards


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