The Twin City Star

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

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

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

The Twin City Star, published weekly from 1910 to 1919, was the first African American newspaper with long-term success to originate from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Star was an important source for news for the regional black community for nearly a decade, offering competition in that marketplace with the venerable Appeal published across the river in St. Paul, Minnesota. Minnesota's African American population had doubled since the launch of the Appeal in 1885, so the Twin City Star was able to tap into increased regional demand for news. 

Throughout its nine-year run, the guiding light behind the Star was Charles Sumner Smith. Smith was born in Petersburg, Virginia, and was said to have gotten his newspaper training there. Smith wore many hats while running the Star; he was described in a 1912 profile in the Pittsburgh Courier as "editor, compositor, proofreader, subscription agent, advertising agent, office boy and general manager." Smith was an able publisher and was active in the National Negro Press Association, at one point serving as an officer with the group. 

The Twin City Star was a typical African American weekly of its era. Normally four pages in length--it briefly expanded to an eight page paper in 1917--the Star blended local and national reports with a good portion of its space devoted to advertisements featuring Minnesota black businesses and social items. 

Like many papers of its time, the Star was only marginally successful financially. In 1917 the paper warned its readers that it might go out of business without more subscribers. Two years later the newspaper ceased operations. In 1921 Smith began weekly publication of another African American paper called the Minneapolis Messenger. In a message to the paper’s readers published on May 14, 1921, Smith explained that the decision to name the new paper the Messenger, rather than the Star, was made to avoid confusion with a separate Minneapolis newspaper titled the Minnesota Daily Star, which had started publication in 1920. 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 Twin City Star is a fine window into the activities of African Americans in an important Midwest community. In particular, the paper provided mid-American perspective on the civil rights struggles of the second decade of the century including a Minnesota take on the polarizing politics of President Woodrow Wilson and the role of African Americans in the First World War.  

Areas of strong local coverage also of interest to national readers include a bill to ban interracial marriage in Minnesota in 1913; multiple attempts to bar the showing of the film The Birth of a Nation in the region; the growth of Minnesota's NAACP; and coverage of prominent Minnesota attorneys of color, including two of national stature: Fredrick McGhee and William T. Francis. Other highlights include the paper’s coverage of the local labor scene and regional vice and crime stories. 

Charles Sumner Smith possessed a feisty, progressive editorial voice, and Star readers may also be intrigued to learn of his verbal-- and sometimes physical--battles with editors of other regional black newspapers.