NEWSPAPERS OWNED BY AFRICAN AMERICANS 1807-1950
74 newspapers section will be complete by July 30 2020
The Statesman and Denver Star 6/10/2020
Founded in 1888 and published in Denver, the Statesman was a weekly paper that served the African American community in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, and New Mexico. The paper acted as a channel through which its readers could “voice their opinions, assert their rights, and demand their due recognition.” The newspaper reported local, church, and society news and events, as well as national stories that would be of particular interest to African Americans residing in the Mountain West. The publication also featured op-eds about interracial marriage, Jim Crow Laws, and segregation. When the controversial movie Birth of Nation was released in 1915, the paper, by then known as the Denver Star, ran opinion pieces condemning the film, noting in one such piece that its evil “lies in the fact that the play is both a denial of the power of development within the free Negro and an exaltation of race war.” The paper repeatedly called upon its readership to boycott Birth of a Nation and printed scathing opinion pieces such as a speech delivered by William Lewis, the first African American Assistant Attorney General, in which he referred to the reels of the film as “three miles of filth.”
The Statesman/Denver Star flourished under the direction of notable editors and publishers. Joseph D.D. Rivers, the first proprietor of the Statesman, was a former student of Booker T. Washington at the Hampton Institute in Virginia. Edwin H. Hackley, who took over as editor in 1892, was the first African American to be to the admitted to the Colorado bar and originated the American Citizens’ Constitutional Union, “designed to unite the efforts of the colored people in all parts of the country for the advancement of their rights and opportunities.” His wife, Azalia Smith Hackley, served as a co-editor of the women’s section of the Statesman, and was the first African American graduate of the University of Denver’s School of Music, a renowned singer, choral director, and activist.
In 1898, George F. Franklin purchased the Statesman from Hackley and served as editor until his death in 1901, after which his widow, Clara Williams Franklin and his son, Chester Arthur Franklin, acted as editors/publishers. In August 1906, the Statesman became Franklin’s Paper, The Statesman. Then in November 1912, C.A. Franklin announced that the Statesman would become the Denver Star, stating that it was “a change of name and nothing more,” in order to distinguish it from the similarly titled Colorado Statesman, edited and published by J.D.D. Rivers, the original editor of the Statesman. In March 1913, Franklin sold the Denver Star to the Denver Independent Publishing Company which published the paper under this name until 1963.
The Bee and Washington Bee (Washington, DC)
The first issue of the Bee was printed on June 3, 1882. William C. Chase, a lawyer, local politician, businessman, and native Washingtonian took over as the paper’s principal editor by the end of the first year of publication, and his superb editorial skills eventually turned the Bee into one of the most influential African American newspapers in the country. The Bee represented the Republican attitudes of its editor, although Chase did not hesitate to criticize Republican Party leaders when he thought they were on the wrong side of an issue. The initial motto of the paper was “Sting for Our Enemies—Honey for Our Friends.” Civil rights for America’s blacks was a primary concern. Although figures are not available for each year of publication, circulation of the Bee varied from a low of 1,250 in 1892 to a high of 9,700 in 1922.
The Washington Bee focused much of its attention on the activities of the city’s African Americans, and its society page paid special attention to events at local black churches. The paper also covered national issues; by the turn of the 20th century it was publishing articles about events across the country by its own correspondents as well as from wire services. Like most publications of the day, there was also an extensive array of advertising, much from white-owned businesses. The remaining space included the typical filler content purchased from various sources.
Through his editorials, Chase conveyed his passionate views on a variety of issues. The Bee’s editorials were noted for their criticism of Booker T. Washington and his apparently conservative positions on black racial progress. The attacks on Washington intensified in 1904 when the noted black educator provided financial assistance to the rival Colored American. The criticisms ended abruptly, however, when Chase’s paper began experiencing its own financial difficulties, and Washington, apparently, contributed financial support to the Bee. Chase remained as editor until his death in 1921. Unfortunately, the paper’s financial troubles continued unabated. The Washington Bee, whose presses had operated at 1109 I Street in the city’s northwest quadrant, folded the year after its long-time editor died.
The Colored American began publishing in 1893 under the ownership of Edward Elder Cooper, who had distinguished himself as the founder of the Indianapolis Freeman, the first illustrated African American newspaper. The Colored American operated its presses at 459 C Street in Washington’s northwest quadrant. The weekly publication promoted itself as a national Negro newspaper and it carried lengthy feature stories on the achievements of African Americans across the country. Publisher Cooper relied on contributions from such prominent black journalists such as John E. Bruce and Richard W. Thompson to sustain the national scope of his paper, which readers could obtain for a $2.00 annual subscription.
The Colored American included a regular column called “City Paragraphs” that highlighted events in the nation’s capital and routinely featured articles on religion, politics, education, military affairs, and black fraternal organizations. The paper distinguished itself by its use of original reporting rather than relying on boiler-plate, filler material taken from other publications. Like other papers, however, it included advertising, much of it geared to black consumers.
The paper ran editorials and political cartoons that championed improved social conditions in the black community and expanded rights for African Americans. Although it held a reputation for political independence, the Colored American was actually staunchly Republican. Cooper allied himself and his paper with Booker T. Washington, and the publisher looked to the famous black educator for financial assistance. Another financial backer was lecturer and activist Mary Church Terrell, a noted African American civil rights advocate who wrote a column for the paper titled “The Women’s World,” under the pseudonym Euphemia Kirk.
Unfortunately for the Colored American, Cooper proved to be a poor businessman and, because of some unorthodox business practices and extensive debts to creditors, financial problems plagued the paper. It ceased publication in November 1904.
Provided by: Library of Congress, Washington, DC
The National Forum (Washington, DC), 1910-19??
The first issue of the National Forum was likely released on April 30, 1910 and the newspaper ran through at least November 12 of that year. The four-page African-American weekly covered such local events as Howard University graduations and Baptist church activities, but its pages also included national news, sports, home maintenance, women’s news, science, editorial cartoons, and reprinted stories from national newspapers. Its primary focus was on how the news affected the city’s black community. A unique feature was its coverage of Elks Club meetings and activities. Business manager John H. Wills contributed the community-centered “Vanity Fair” column that usually appeared on the front page of each issue. The publisher and editor was Ralph W. White, who went on to publish another African-American newspaper, the McDowell Times of Keystone, West Virginia. Originally located at 609 F St., NW, the newspaper’s offices moved in August to 1022 U Street, N.W. to be closer to the African-American community it served. No extant first issue of the National Forum exists.
Provided by: Library of Congress, Washington, DC