Emma Lou Thornbrough (1913–1994) was an American historian who specialized in the history of African Americans. In 1966, her paper "American Negro Newspapers, 1880-1914" was published in the Business History Review.
"American Negro Newspapers, 1880-1914" examines the business history of African American weekly newspapers during the period prior to World War I. According to Thornbrough, one defining characteristic of African American weeklies during this era was the great number established and the great number that, subsequently, folded. In fact, she notes, "no Negro newspaper founded before 1880 survived until 1914."
The reason for the challenges in publishing continuity faced by African American newspapers is partly attributed by Thornbrough to chronic financial difficulties most of them faced. However, she goes on to note that regular financial difficulties was also a hallmark of white-owned weekly newspapers. In the case of African American papers, though, these issues were exacerbated by the smaller pool of potential subscribers from which they had to draw. Further, the absence of capital meant the resources to develop professional sales forces was largely absent, leaving the business side of the papers to editors who were largely unqualified for that role.
Ultimately, Thornbrough concludes, African American newspapers during this time period "failed to develop techniques and appeals comparable to those employed by the white press to build up the circulation necessary to make them viable businesses."