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Visions of the African Press in Colonial Kenya: What the Nationalists Imagined
Unformatted Document Text:  1 Visions of the African Press in Colonial Kenya: What the Nationalists Imagined Nearly fifty African-run newspapers were established between the years 1921 and 1952 in colonial Kenya. Some thrived, reaching readers across the East African colonies. Others died after the first edition or two. Most were run by political leaders in the nationalist movement. Yet very little is known about these papers or the vision of the press of the nationalist editors who produced them. This is partly because of the dearth of information. The few accounts of the Kenyan press tend to be chapters in books that give overviews of the entire continent. These histories almost always focus on the largest, longest-lived publications, which in Kenya were not originally the newspapers run by indigenous Africans. 1 When the African-run publications do get mentioned, they are usually dismissed as political propaganda with little or no attention given to what their publishers claimed the role of the press was. 2 This research paper argues that the history of the Kenyan press should include the account of these publications provided by the nationalist journalists who did in fact produce the first truly African press in Kenya. This research paper poses the question: What vision did these Africans hold for the press? What did they believe the role of the press was? These are important questions even today because across Africa and even other parts of the world, a renewed emphasis on a subjective, politically partisan media has surfaced. We would do well to see what the original political leaders who started the African tradition of a partisan press intended, and what their views of the press were. Thus, this is a study of visions of what the press could and should be. 1 See James Scotton, Kenya’s Maligned African Press: Time for a Reassessment, Journalism Quarterly, 1975, 52: 30-36, and Faye Gadsden, The Africa Press in Kenya, 1945-1952, Journal of African History, 1980, 21/4, 515-535. 2 This characterization was begun with Helen Kitchen’s The Press in Africa, (1956) based on information gathered during her Africa stint with the U.S. State Department.

Authors: Wall, Melissa.
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1
Visions of the African Press in Colonial Kenya:
What the Nationalists Imagined
Nearly fifty African-run newspapers were established between the years 1921 and
1952 in colonial Kenya. Some thrived, reaching readers across the East African colonies.
Others died after the first edition or two. Most were run by political leaders in the
nationalist movement. Yet very little is known about these papers or the vision of the
press of the nationalist editors who produced them.
This is partly because of the dearth of information. The few accounts of the Kenyan
press tend to be chapters in books that give overviews of the entire continent. These
histories almost always focus on the largest, longest-lived publications, which in Kenya
were not originally the newspapers run by indigenous Africans.
1
When the African-run
publications do get mentioned, they are usually dismissed as political propaganda with
little or no attention given to what their publishers claimed the role of the press was.
2
This research paper argues that the history of the Kenyan press should include the
account of these publications provided by the nationalist journalists who did in fact
produce the first truly African press in Kenya. This research paper poses the question:
What vision did these Africans hold for the press? What did they believe the role of the
press was? These are important questions even today because across Africa and even
other parts of the world, a renewed emphasis on a subjective, politically partisan media
has surfaced. We would do well to see what the original political leaders who started the
African tradition of a partisan press intended, and what their views of the press were.
Thus, this is a study of visions of what the press could and should be.
1
See James Scotton, Kenya’s Maligned African Press: Time for a Reassessment,
Journalism Quarterly, 1975, 52: 30-36, and Faye Gadsden, The Africa Press in Kenya,
1945-1952, Journal of African History, 1980, 21/4, 515-535.
2
This characterization was begun with Helen Kitchen’s The Press in Africa, (1956) based
on information gathered during her Africa stint with the U.S. State Department.


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