African American Newspapers in Minneapolis and St. Paul, 1885-1925

Afro-independent (St. Paul, Minn.; Minneapolis, Minn.) 1888 Browse the title    

The Minneapolis observer (Minneapolis, Minn.) 1890 Browse the title

The Negro world (St. Paul, Minn.; Minneapolis, Minn.) 1892-1900 Browse the title

The protest (Minneapolis, Minn.; St. Paul, Minn.) 1892 Browse the title 

The world (Duluth, Minn.) 1895-1897 Browse the title

The Twin City guardian (St. Paul, Minn.; Minneapolis, Minn.) 1895-1920 Browse the title

The Afro-American advance (Minneapolis, Minn.; St. Paul, Minn.) 1899-1900 Browse the title

The Twin-City American (Minneapolis, Minn.; St. Paul, Minn.) 1899 Browse the title

Northwestern-vine (Minneapolis, Minn.; St. Paul, Minn.) 1901-1903 Browse the title

The Twin City star (Minneapolis, Minn.) 1910-1919 Browse the title

The National advocate (Minneapolis, Minn.; St. Paul, Minn.) 1915-1924 Browse the title

The Minneapolis messenger (Minneapolis, Minn.) 1921-1922 Browse the title

The Minnesota messenger (Minneapolis, Minn.) 1922-1924 Browse the title

The northwestern bulletin (St. Paul, Minn.; Minneapolis, Minn.) 1922-1924 Browse the title

While the Appeal (1888-1923), and its predecessor the Western Appeal (1885-1888), was the most widely circulated and best known Minnesota African American newspaper of its day, it had many competitors. During the period from 1888 to 1922, no fewer than fourteen different newspapers also emerged as sources of news and information for the growing community of educated black citizens in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.

Like other newspapers of the day, these publications devoted a large portion of their coverage to national and state news. Local and social news of interest to the African American community was also prominently featured, often alongside the national news on the front page. Readers could expect to be informed in such matters as who had been elected president of the Elks Lodge, whether or not the Pastor's wife would be joining him for Sunday services, and how customers like the new soda fountain the café recently installed. In addition, businesses advertising in these papers often made a special effort to call attention to the fact that they were African American-owned.        

While there were numerous other African American newspapers that existed in Minneapolis and St. Paul at the same time as the Appeal, most of these publications only lasted for a few months. The first of these for which a historical record exists was the Afro-Independent, which began publication in St. Paul in July of 1888 with Charles S. Sweed as its editor. An eight-page, six-column paper, the Afro-Independent was published weekly. In contrast to most African American newspapers of the time, the Afro-Independent was decidedly Democratic in its politics, expressing great dissatisfaction over what it perceived as the Republican Party’s lack of regard for its African American supporters. In an editorial opinion published in the paper’s September 22, 1888 issue, the Afro-Independent criticized Republicans as "the party that has and is now serving out a prolonged lease of power and can today point to no notable act it has ever done for its staunchest, truest and most earnest supporter the Negro." Unfortunately, very little else is known about this paper, as only one issue is extant in the Minnesota Historical Society’s records.

The Minneapolis Observer was a four-page, six-column weekly paper published in Minneapolis from August to September of 1890. The Minneapolis Observer was independent in its politics and dedicated to serving the interests of the African American communities in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The paper proclaimed in its inaugural issue: “Our motto will be race first, and Party afterwards." A.G. Plummer was the paper’s editor and M.W. Weaver its business manager. A. G. Plummer would later serve as editor of the World.

The Negro World was a four-page, seven column newspaper published weekly from 1892 to 1900. Joseph Houser was editor and publisher, and had publishing offices in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. Unlike many other African American newspapers of its time, the Negro World was Democratic in its politics. The paper featured frequent editorials harshly critical of the policies of Republican President William McKinley; Republicanism in general, which it characterized as a "curse"; and corporate trusts, which it called "imperial" business interests.

The Protest, published weekly in Minneapolis, was run by Z. W. Mitchell, formerly the head of the Minneapolis department of the Western Appeal. Proclaiming itself "The official organ of the colored people of Hennepin County," the Protest was proudly Republican in its politics, identifying itself as such in both its masthead and publisher’s block. A short-lived venture, The Protest ran for just four months, from July to October, 1892.

The Twin City Guardian began publication in St. Paul in 1895 with Jacob R. Steiner as manager and editor. Under Steiner, the Twin City Guardian focused on promoting local small businesses in the Twin Cities. In 1918, Jacob’s son, William D. J. Steiner, assumed the role of managing editor. The following year, Jennie M. and Phillip F. Hale, an African American couple from Minneapolis, took over as the paper’s publishers and began featuring news for an African American audience. Phillip F. Hale had previously been managing editor of another African American newspaper, the Twin City Star. Beginning with the June 14, 1919 issue, the advertising in the paper also began prominently featuring African American owned businesses. In November 1919, the Hales moved the newspaper to Minneapolis. Following the move, William D. J. Steiner took on the role of special Minneapolis representative. Under the direction of the Hales, the Twin City Guardian ran until at least 1920, which is when the Minnesota Historical Society’s collection ends. Phillip and Jennie Hale died within months of one another in 1921, both of heart-related ailments. An article in the March 3, 1921 edition of the Minneapolis Messenger mentions an attempt by unidentified parties to revive the Twin City Guardian which produced "only a couple of issues."

The World began publication in 1895 with offices in Minneapolis and St. Paul, proclaiming in its masthead "This is the only newspaper published at the head of the lakes, in the interest of the colored people." The four-page, six-column newspaper was published weekly and featured a digest of national, regional and local news with a particular emphasis on news events impacting the African American community. By 1896, the paper had expanded its operations to the city of Duluth.

Like many African American newspapers of the day, the World was decidedly Republican in its politics. From May through June of 1896, the paper published numerous editorial letters speaking out against the "Democratic southern states" and their part in implementing the various "Jim Crow" laws at the heart of the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson case which, at the time, was being argued before the United States Supreme Court.

The World also enjoyed an active rivalry with another Twin Cities African American newspaper, the Appeal. At the heart of the rivalry was the Appeal’s claim to being the "only legitimate Afro-American newspaper in the Twin Cities." In its May 23, 1896 issue, the editors of the World challenged the Appeal to defend their claim, adding that "While the word legitimate is a good word, yet in this case was used was used out of place. Please get a new word or change the argument."

During its relatively brief existence, the World went through numerous management changes. Through the paper’s first year, Perry O. Gray was its sole editor and publisher. By 1896, Colonel Samuel E. Hardy, formerly with the Western Appeal, had joined as the paper’s business manager and D.H. Saunders served as editor and advertising agent for Duluth and Superior. In 1897, A.G. Plummer, formerly with the Minneapolis Observer, became the paper’s editor, Richard Farr became associate editor, and William Bruce, Charles Miller, Claude Jackson and J.S. Harris took roles as business managers. By November of that same year, however, the World ceased publication.

Formed by the merger of the Twin-City American and the Colored Citizen [non-extant], the Afro-American Advance began weekly publication from its offices in Minneapolis in May of 1899. Claiming a circulation of over 15,000 in its inaugural issue, the four-page, six-column newspaper promised that it would be “devoted to the local and national interests of the colored race, especially those of the race who live in the northwest, particularly of the Twin Cities.” The Afro-American Advance published at length on the topic of race relations in America, advocating for increased education and upward mobility among African Americans. Strongly Democratic in its politics, the paper endorsed a straight party ticket during elections. Unique to the paper were its periodic front-page feature articles on “Prominent Minnesota Afro-Americans.” Joseph C. Reid, formerly the head of the Colored Citizen, was president of the Afro-American Advance, with J.M. Griffin, the former editor and proprietor of the Twin City American, joining as the paper’s manager. McCants Stewart, also of the Twin City American, served as business manager. It is not known exactly how long the Afro-American Advance remained in publication, but the Minnesota Historical Society’s holdings of the paper end with the November 17, 1900 issue.

Identifying itself as “An independent race journal, devoted to the interest of the colored race,” the Twin-City American was a four-page, seven column newspaper published weekly in St. Paul and Minneapolis from April to May of 1899. J. M. Griffin served as the paper’s editor and proprietor. Following the end of its publication, the Twin-City American merged with the Colored Citizen [non-extant] to form the Afro-American Advance.

Calling itself “The leading Afro-American newspaper published in the Northwest,” the Northwestern-vine was published weekly in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Chicago by D.E. Butler from 1901 to 1903. F. D. McCracken served as editor of the Minneapolis and St. Paul editions, and Dr. P.A. Huberts was editor of the Chicago edition. Joseph C. Reid, another newspaper man from the Twin Cities formerly of the Afro-American Advance, served for a time as a staff writer at the Northwestern-Vine. F. D. McCracken would later become the St. Paul representative for the Twin City Star. An eight-page, five-column paper, the Northwestern-vine featured a weekly digest of “Social, Personal and Local” news, with particular attention paid to events at local churches. A strongly Republican paper, the Northwestern-vine urged its readers to vote a straight Republican ticket “For the good of the race and the best in America.”

The Twin City Star was published weekly in Minneapolis from 1910 to 1919. Charles Sumner Smith was the paper’s editor and founder, and Phillip F. Hale its managing editor. In an editorial, published June 2, 1910, Smith described his vision for the paper as follows: “Should I succeed in a small way I shall give to the Negro a right which he has been deprived of in this community, the right of the power of the press, because I have been denied that privilege, and I am forced to say that it is a slavery almost unbearable.”

Progressive in its politics, the Twin City Star endorsed Theodore Roosevelt’s presidential campaign as the Progressive Party candidate in 1912, urging its readers to “Vote for Roosevelt and secure your rights within the states.” Charles Sumner Smith would later become editor of the Minneapolis Messenger and Phillip F. Hale went on to become publisher of the Twin City Guardian.

Calling itself “The leading Negro newspaper in the Northwest,” the National Advocate began weekly publication in Minneapolis in 1915 with Richard B. Montgomery as the paper’s editor and publisher. Claiming to be “Republican in national politics, but loyal to the President and his administration,” the National Advocate regularly endorsed a straight Republican ticket in local as well as national elections. Publication was suspended in 1922 while R.B. Montgomery was involved in an Oklahoma court case dealing with his alleged fraudulent use of the U.S. Mail. The National Advocate ceased publication after the August 22, 1924 issue.

Calling itself “An independent Negro newspaper,” the Minneapolis Messenger began weekly publication in 1921 with Charles Sumner Smith, formerly of the Twin City Star, as editor and Hamlet B. Rowe as manager.  In 1920, another paper began publication in Minneapolis titled the Minnesota Daily Star. In a message to the paper’s readers, published on May 14, 1921, Charles Sumner Smith explained that the decision to name the new paper the Minneapolis Messenger was made to avoid confusion. Ironically, in 1922 the Minneapolis Messenger was forced to change its name to the Minnesota Messenger to avoid confusion with a white-owned paper also calling itself the Minneapolis Messenger, published in Minneapolis, Kansas. The Minnesota Messenger ceased publication in 1924.

The Northwestern Bulletin began weekly publication in St. Paul in 1922 with Walter H. Chesnutt as managing editor and Roy Wilkins, formerly with Appeal Publishing, as editor. As a member of the Associated Negro Press, the paper published general and feature news from national correspondents, as well as local stories of interest. In 1923, Chesnutt died of scarlet fever at the age of 20. He was succeeded as manager by S. Quay Herndon. In 1924, the Northwestern Bulletin merged with the Appeal to form the Northwestern Bulletin-Appeal. Owen Howell served as president and publisher, and John Quincy Adams Jr. as printing manager. Citing a steadily declining interest in the paper, Howell stopped publication of the Northwestern Bulletin-Appeal in July 1924, only to resume two months later with the aid of investors and renewed public interest. However, less than a year later, Howell sold off his share in the paper and publication halted completely shortly thereafter. The exact end date of the Northwestern Bulletin-Appeal is not known, but the last issue in the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society is dated August 15, 1925.

The diversity of opinions reflected in the large number of African American newspapers produced during this period in Minnesota’s history in many ways mirrored the changing social and economic landscape of the state. While Minnesota would see other African American newspapers published in the years following these, the state would not see again a time in which so many would exist at once.