UL Lafayette preserves the legacy of a teacher, publisher of black newspapers

In 1985, Elaine Campbell was teaching English at New Iberia Senior Daytime High and going straight to her second job as a store clerk at the North Gate Mall in Lafayette after the last bell. She had a family and an overfull plate, but she added one more thing to her schedule.

“There wasn’t a lot of news in The Daily Iberian for Blacks, and Blacks were doing amazing things,” Campbell said. “But they weren’t made public. So I thought, ‘Let’s see if we can change that a bit. “”

Campbell founded The Ebony Journal, the first black-owned newspaper in Iberia Parish since Reconstruction, to fill a gap she saw not only in her hometown newspaper, but across the region.

“I liked reading the newspaper because it gave you a picture of what’s going on,” she said. “I wanted to provide a vision for black communities in Acadiana.”

With the help of a few other reporters, Campbell spent her weekends covering events and interviewing people she knew in Acadiana communities, contacts she had made over her decades of work. teaching in the parish schools of Iberia and St. Mary.

Then she typed the reports at home and dropped them off at the printer when she went to her second job in Lafayette.

She published the paper for 20 years, retiring from journalism in 2005 before retiring from teaching four years later.

“I loved it all, but my hair was turning gray so I had to retire,” the 89-year-old laughed.

Today, the Iberia African American Historical Society works in collaboration with archivists and digitization specialists from the University of Louisiana at the Lafayette Ernest Gaines Center and the UL Center for Louisiana Studies to preserve the Campbell collection of The Ebony Journal .

“I’m grateful,” Campbell said. “It will help the newspaper survive.”

“We still have a segregated history”:Integrating Black History into Schools Throughout the Year

She also has a connection to the university, as she obtained her “Master + 30” degree from UL Lafayette.

Born and raised in New Iberia, Campbell graduated from high school in 1950 and moved to the West Coast to study political science at Los Angeles City College and San Francisco City College for a few years.

Her hope was to eventually go to law school, but her family urged her to return home.

“I wanted to go to UCLA but my mom dragged me home,” she said.

She returned in 1957 to segregated South Louisiana, and her mother feared for her family if Campbell, a young black woman, pursued law school near her home.

“These black doctors had just been run out of town,” Campbell said.

She shifted her plans to teaching, earning degrees in education at Southern University and then UL. She then taught English and social studies in middle and high schools in Acadiana for 63 years. She even replaced a few years after her retirement.

Campbell and his camera could often be seen at community events around the parish, covering news from local churches, schools, businesses and organizations and featuring members of the local black community in The Ebony Journal.

Copies of his newspaper were deteriorating, as the printing of the newspaper became brittle and unstable over time. The papers had been stored for decades in non-archival containers and exposed to dampness, dust and mold, according to a statement from the Iberia African American Historical Society.

The newsprint is now in the custody of UL Archivist and Curator Cheylon Woods. In a slow, multi-step process to preserve the collection, Woods first froze the logs in small batches to stop mold growth, according to a statement.

“The next step in the preservation process is to thaw the papers intravenously,” Woods said.

Continued:Meet Lafayette’s New Head Start Director, Iberia | Mural at MLK center in Lafayette created with a juvenile detention center to inspire positivity

Woods will then attempt to repair the paper as much as possible. She has been an archivist for over a decade, the last six years at the Ernest Gaines Centre.

“I’m always very excited to work with the rural black community in particular to preserve their community and their culture as they define it,” Woods said. “When we preserve The Ebony Journal or similar things that relate to what we call counter-narratives, they fill in the information gaps for a lot of people.”

The archiving of The Ebony Journal will fill the gaps not only for members of the communities it served, but also for those who will come long after.

“Newspapers do a good job of providing insight into the ideology of people connected to them,” Woods said. “A lot of research has been done on New Iberia, but the black experience was missing. This will fill that gap and make the information more accessible to future researchers.”

Once Woods completes his work with the newspapers, the articles will then be transferred to the UL Digitization Center with the UL Center for Louisiana Studies under the supervision of Director John Sharpe, who will perform a high-resolution digitization of each page of the newspaper.

Finally, the restored journals will be returned to Campbell in appropriate archival boxes along with digital copies from his collection.

New name, new start:New Iberia’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Walk will be a reminder to serve

The Ebony Journal will be accessible to the public as part of the archives of the future African-American Iberian Historical Society Center at The Shadows, which will be housed on the second floor of The Shadows Visitor Center.

The newspaper was the second of its kind in the parish of Iberia. During Reconstruction, African-American businessmen and political leaders Samuel Wakefield and Louis Snaer were co-publishers and co-owners of the Iberia Banner newspaper.

Contact Leigh Guidry, Children’s Issues Reporter, at [email protected] or on Twitter @LeighGGuidry.