Black Boston: a Photo Gallery
Home Where's Black Boston? Society Visual Artists Writers and Poets Politics Press Church Relevant Links
Boston Black Theater
Contact Lorraine Roses

      The Black Press

black journalists have long risked life and livelihood so that African Americans could have a voice of their own. Nowhere is this as poignantly true as in Boston.

The "press pioneers" of black Boston are almost forgotten today. Thanks to veteran black journalist Mabe Kountze, who left as his legacy a typescript book called "A History of the Early Colored Press in Massachusetts," (1967) we have a window into this intriguing story.

A series of black-owned and edited newspapers flourished in the late 1880s and 1890s, including "The Boston Advocate," "The Boston Leader" and "The Boston Courant."

"The Boston Leader and the Boston Advocate were still operating in the early 1900s.

It may strike us as odd that none of these newspapers identified themselves racially in their titles.
Part of the answer is that the reigning philosophy of black leaders of the time (except Booker T. Washington, of course) was complete and uncompromising equality, access and integrationism.
Kountze tells us that

"an arrogant and loud refusal by a New York Heart paper to publish worthwhile and progressive news pertaining to, and submitted by Colored People, resulted in being a prime factor in the forced founding of the Colored Press, an eventual great and unique news medium, which at its peak numbered close to 200 newspapers, a few dailies, but mostly varied size weeklies from most of the forty-eight states."

The Boston Guardian was founded in 1901 by William Monroe Trotter, an 1895 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard University. He became Editor and Publisher, idealizing the great Abolitionist Editor, William Lloyd Garrison of Liberator and Abolitionism fame.

Trotter had his offices in the same building as the Liberator and kept a bust of Garrison on his desk.
The Guardian ran from 1901 until 1955, the longest publication of any Boston or New England black newspaper.
Trotter, his wife Geraldine, his sister Maude Trotter Steward, and his brother-in-law Dr. Charles Steward, all poured their entire family fortune into their newspaper.

The Boston Chronicle arrived on the scene in 1915, during the dark days of the First World War.
The founders were "progressive colored West Indian people," asvMabe Kountze calls them.

The two newspapers worked as rivals, creating competition, choice of views, and healthy growth of the Boston black press, with the Chronicle adopting a conservative, quasi-British tone.
Alfred Houghton and William Edward Harrison (like Trotter, a Harvard graduate) were the courageous editors who kept the Chronicle going until 1960.

All of their resources went into the newspaper, until nothing was left.

The Chronicle and the Guardian have disappeared in another, very real sense: few of their issues survive, even in the depository where one would think they'd be sure to reside: the Boston Public Library in Copley Square.
Why this is so remains an unsolved mystery.

Today, the Bay State Banner, edited by Melvin Miller, carries on the proud tradition.