Robert Bontrager papers

Identity elements

Reference code

US US kmk U2011.38

Level of description



Robert Bontrager papers


  • 1964-1978 (Creation)


6.50 Linear Feet, 6.00 Boxes

Name of creator


Biographical history

Robert Bontrager was the only professor at Kansas State University to teach the course "The Black Press in America."  He sought to open the minds of students concerning the "struggles and achievements of the Black minority."
Bontrager received his Ph.D. in Mass Communications in 1969 from Syracuse University with a dissertation titled An Investigation of the Black Press and White Press Use Patterns in the Black Inner City of Syracuse, New York: A Field Survey.  He then became a professor in the journalism department at K-State until 1989.  Other departmental duties included being the Journalism and Mass Communications acting department head in 1972-1973 and 1979-1980, chairing the journalism school's graduate studies program from 1971 to 1989, and serving as the associate director of the journalism school from 1986 to 1989.  He was the Cruise Palmer professor of Journalism and Mass Communications for the 1984-1985 academic year.
Other duties outside the university included serving on the board of directors of Laubach Literacy International, being a judge in the national Unity Media Awards, and serving in various capacities with the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.
In the 1970 fall term, Bontrager began teaching the first Black press course at K-State.  While teaching this course, he primarily focused on Black press materials from the Kansas City Call, particularly the editorials, and two titles from the Johnson Publishing Company, Ebony and Jet.
Bontrager retired in May 1989 and later moved to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1992.
He was born in 1922 and was a 1945 graduate of Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, where he met Mable Busch, whom he married the following year.  Between 1948 and 1965, the Bontragers were missionaries in the Congo, after which they adopted two boys, Thomas and Timothy.  Mable died in Lewisburg in January 2011.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

This collection includes serial publications from African-American publishers throughout the nation between 1964 and 1978.  Robert Bontrager used these materials to teach his "Black Press in America" course from 1970 to 1989.  There is representation from national publications like Ebony Jr! and The Journal of Negro Education, as well as smaller publications like Sepia (Fort Worth, Texas) and The Facts (Seattle, Washington).

System of arrangement

Arranged in six boxes, the materials are in original order: magazines and journals in alphabetical order followed by newspapers in alphabetical order.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

No access restrictions: All materials are open for research.

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

  • Latin

Language and script notes

Finding aids

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

The materials were in the basement of Kedzie Hall until the department donated them. The materials had been there for many years, possibly from the time of Bontrager's retirement. It received accession number U2011.38.

Immediate source of acquisition

A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communication donated these papers in 2011.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information

Appraisal criteria included the uniqueness of the course and the breadth of the course materials.


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Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

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Related descriptions

Specialized notes

  • Citation: [Item title], [item date], Robert Bontrager papers, Box [number], Folder [number or title], Morse Department of Special Collections, Kansas State University Libraries.

Alternative identifier(s)

Archon Collection ID


Description control element

Rules or conventions

Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Sources used

Sources outside the collection used in preparing the biographical note include the Media Services Faculty Files and online search results.

Archivist's note

In 2011, student assistant Kari Bingham processed the collection and university archivist Cliff Hight reviewed it before publication in February 2012.

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