The Nubian Message has been created to represent the African American community at NCSU totally, truthfully, and faithfully.” So wrote Tony Williamson, the founding editor of NC State's African American student newspaper, The Nubian Message, in the inaugural issue. Outraged at ongoing and controversial misrepresentations of African Americans in NC State’s main student newspaper, the Technician, Williamson and others organized The Nubian Message to provide African American students with a media voice. “We are not seeking superiority, nor segregation,” Williamson wrote.  “[A]ll we want is an equal voice on this campus and with The Nubian Message, the door is open for us to have that voice.”[1]

With this call for African American equality, Williamson could easily have been writing during the 1960s or 1970s, at the height of the civil rights era. Instead, he was writing in 1992. Williamson and other activists’ efforts to combat racial bias in student media thus belied the commonly held belief that racial discrimination ended with the downfall of Jim Crow. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 created important legal structures that outlawed outright racial discrimination. As a result, many white Americans believe that the nation has progressed into a "post-racial" phase and that African Americans and other minority groups no longer face barriers to success. This narrative of a post-racial America seemingly culminated with the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first president.

Yet historians like Jacqueline Hall, Nancy MacLean, Thomas Sugrue, and Robert Self have long argued against this narrative of post-racial America, claiming that it is a construct of "New Right" politics that elides real and ongoing structural inequities for minorities. These historians pinpoint the rise of Reagan-era conservatism along with de-industrialization as dual processes that drove the creation of a new, post-racial discourse. With the end of post-war prosperity, it became easier for many white Americans to justify delayed action on issues of social justice with the rhetoric of equality, while shoring up the largely invisible social and economic structures that privileged them as a group. The new "post-racial" society was not so much post-racial as it was designed around the myth of a newly equal society that did not need corrective structures, like affirmative action, which supposedly privileged minorities over their white, middle-class counterparts.[2]

Moreover, the scholarship of historians David Cecelski and Charles Bolton demonstrates that the integration of public schools and universities did not entail an equal merger of formerly black and white education systems. In response, African American students and communities struggled to carve out spaces to assert their rights as students and employees, as well as their cultural heritage and identity in integrated schools. Here, the origins and development of The Nubian Message adds to the historiography on African Americans and public education, both in the South and beyond. The paper's perspectives on issues like slavery, affirmative action, and African American stereotypes in media reveal frustration at the state of race relations in the 1990s and early 2000s, but also a determination to achieve racial equality in the new millennium.[3]


[1] Tony Williamson, “To All My Nubian Brothers and Sisters: ‘What’s Up?,’” The Nubian Message, November 30, 1992, reprinted in “Why We Exist?,” The Nubian Message, (accessed September 19, 2014).

[2] Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, “The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past,” The Journal of American History 91, no. 4 (March 2005): 1233-1263; Nancy MacLean, Freedom Is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace (New York: Russell Sage Foundation; Harvard University Press, 2006); Robert O. Self, American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003); and Thomas Sugrue, Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).

[3] Charles C. Bolton, The Hardest Deal of All: The Battle Over School Integration in Mississippi, 1870-1980 (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005); David S. Cecelski, Along Freedom Road: Hyde County, North Carolina and the Fate of Black Schools in the South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994).