When the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) meets for its annual convention and career fair, July 31 to August 4, in Chicago, it will be a special time for 40 year journalist and award winning writer John W. Fountain.

He is in the running for two awards for his column writing but not writing done for the White daily Chicago Sun-Times where he toiled and enjoyed success for years. A venerable Black weekly, the Chicago Crusader, published by Dorothy R. Leavell, is the place where readers were presented with his work. Two years ago, Fountain resigned from the Sun-Times and declared his “freedom” as a Black journalist.

When we see Blacks enjoying accolades, visibility and recognition inside White institutions, we are likely to believe them to be appreciated and happy. We’re likely to be very wrong.

In 2022, the Crusader chronicled the Fountain plantation escape and the disrespect and disregard that led to his departure: It started with a conversation between Fountain and Sun-Times Executive Editor Jennifer Kho who said she would not run his column in the newspaper if he “did not agree to one of her two revisions nor to revise that column in the way she had suggested.


Days after resigning verbally, Fountain sent Sun-Times editors a memo on November 29 about the exchange with Sun-Times Executive Editor Kho.

Another editor followed up with Fountain by telephone, saying that Fountain, who has written a column as a freelance journalist for the Sun-Times since January 2010, would be allowed to write a final farewell column. After Fountain submitted that column on Friday, December 2, that editor called to inform Fountain that the executive editor had made the decision to not run it.”

“This is the post-mortem of a Black Chicago newspaper columnist and a page in the diary of a free Black journalist. I am gone, for real this time. Having succumbed to a 37-year career of ‘Reporting and Writing While Black’ but having been finally liberated by the last insult, indignity or innuendo, and finally made free.

“The challenge was always to try and be authentically me in a predominantly white journalism world that challenges, rejects, or else seeks to modify our words, voice or perspective.

A world in which even some ‘Black’ journalists have, at times, seemed more foe than friend. At least not supportive, or a defender, if not co-conspirators in my tumult and ultimate newspaper journalism demise. And yet, I am free. At last.”

Fountain described being “maligned in newsrooms, treated like a second-class citizen and more like the resident Black man who conjured hate or fear because I fit, in living color, a stereotypical portrait of the big scary, dark-skinned, sullen and angry Black man—no matter how softly I spoke or tried to shrink myself.”

“In a journalism career of nearly 40 years, I have rarely felt as disrespected as my encounter with Jen last Friday. And it signals to me not an end but a new beginning. … I say farewell. Not because I don’t have anything left to say. But because I do,” he continued.

“I will write. No longer a participant in volunteer slavery, but as a Black journalist at last set free,” Fountain wrote for the Crusader.

It’s not uncommon for Black columnists, analysts, reporters and editors to be mistreated and treated like slaves. The Hill fired Briahna Joy Gray, the co-host of its morning show, after an interview with Yarden Gonen, the sister of Israeli captive Romi Gonen. The progressive political commentator was canned June 6.

Gray has been a strong critic of Israeli destruction of Gaza. She was accused of rolling her eyes during the interview. Her alleged 13 second video act was shown on social media. Zionists and unrepentant Israeli backers called for her head. The clip shows Gray after Gonen says to Gray, “I really hope that you, specifically, will believe women when they say that they got hurt.”

There is a slight sigh and facial reaction to being accused of not believing women. During the interview, Gonen and a conservative commentator clashed with Gray over what was happening in Gaza. The interview ended in an amiable manner. Gray was fired because pro-Israel forces didn’t want this Black woman calling out the evil perpetrated by the Zionist state.

And there aren’t tons of Black journalists out here: “Black Americans tend to be underrepresented in U.S. newsrooms. Just 6 percent of reporting journalists are Black, according to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey of U.S. journalists. That is well below the Black share of U.S. workers (11 percent) and adults overall (12 percent,” said the polling organization.

Sadly for years and until today, many of our brothers and sisters working for the dying daily newspaper and media industry see the Black Press as an inferior and second class operation—until the White man gives them the boot.

Millions of potential readers and supporters are out there for the taking and we must fight for them. We must deliver bold, uncompromising commentary, analysis and reporting. Not just for the sake of readership but because we are under vicious attacks.

We are living in an age of media innovation and independence as a rule—not the exception. Those who have long denied, diminished and destroyed our careers are scrambling for their survival and often posing as Black Press outlets to capture Black readers and, like vultures, find ways to live off of us.

We are also in an age where the truthfulness and reputation of the media has been heavily damaged especially with Black folk.

A Pew poll last year found “nearly two-thirds of Black adults (63 percent) say that the news they see or hear about Black people is often more negative than news about people in other racial and ethnic groups.”

That means millions of potential readers and supporters are out there for the taking and we must fight for them. We must deliver bold, uncompromising commentary, analysis and reporting. Not just for the sake of readership but because we are under vicious attacks.

Our people need good information and fearless defenders. And our people need to support a strong Black Press uncontrolled by dwindling ad dollars or political concerns. So find clarion Black voices to support, spend some money or give donations.

There is no freedom on the White media plantation, and if we don’t build and pay for an independent Black Press and institutions, we will never be free.

Naba’a Muhammad is editor-in-chief of The Final Call newspaper. He can be reached via www.finalcall.com and [email protected]. Find him on Facebook. Follow @Rmfinalcall on X, formerly Twitter.