Black And White And Read All Over

By: Mark Fitzgerald

When pharmaceutical executive Glenn R. Chavis retired in 2000, he devoted himself to finding out more about the history of his African-American family and High Point, N.C., its home for generations. He says he found almost nothing at the city library, so he decided “to educate people about things that happened in their community that they know nothing about.”

Since then, Chavis has reported forgotten black history by tapping into a treasure trove of information ?stories from when segregation extended even to the news in the hometown paper.

For the High Point Enterprise earlier this year, he wrote a daily column taken from a feature the paper published in the 1920s and 1930s labeled “News of Interest to Colored People.” Those items portrayed a profoundly segregated High Point, with its references to “Ossie E. Davis, supervisor of the Department of Negro Recreation,” and accounts of the May 1932 “Colored Schools Field Day Competition,” featuring the “famous 31-piece A&T College band.”

Chavis, who writes more regularly ? and in what he calls a “smack-you-in-the-face style” ? for the News & Record in nearby Greensboro, says black history is often hidden in the old news accounts, which might reveal race by whether or not a man is referred to as “Mr.” He explains: “I’m looking for the language that reporters used at the time, all those things that were just a part of the South.”

Enterprise Editor Thomas L. Blount says the columns mining the old “colored” news were popular with both black and white readers: “He brought out some things that hadn’t been known or talked about since that time.”

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