There are web sites that have open newspaper archives but it has been hard to find a collection of historical African American newspapers on-line. That situation is improving thanks to a partnership between the AFRO American newspapers and Google.
The AFRO Archives allows visitors to read and examine newspapers from various time periods. The archives can tell you what the important news items of the day, commentary and opinion and a text snapshot of the goods, services and products being targeted to readers of the newspaper.
I read a few of the early papers and I was surprised about seeing the railroad schedules listed for the various rail lines. I made me wonder about the importance of the railroad in terms of employment and receiving goods from other places.
I could also get a sense that some of the issues that make the news today have historical connections. When reading the paper it is important to remember that this is a view into the thoughts and attitudes of the past. It took a moment to understand that the whitecaps mentioned in a news story referred to member of the Klan.
You can browse the archive or you can enter a search term to find articles that contain key words. When I entered "library" I was presented with articles about libraries trying to open or trying to prevent from being closed.
One of the articles that I read from 1947 wrote about the work of the YWCA in helping to open the library to all citizens except colored children under 16.
This is the beginning stage of the archive, more newspapers from the AFRO American newspaper chain need to be added. This is a neat research tool that libraries and schools and history buffs can enjoy and use.