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
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
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
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.