In honoring Black History Month, the Herald looks to the Black-owned and operated newspapers that have contributed important reporting and discourse to our nation’s history.
Freedom’s Journal, founded in New York City in 1827, was the United States’ first newspaper owned and operated by Black citizens. The weekly published domestic news on current events, as well as stories on countries like Haiti, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The publication’s editorials denounced slavery and championed racial justice, Black voting rights and Black voices. “Henceforth Blacks should speak to themselves and for themselves. No other can speak for us,” Samuel Cornish, the publisher of Freedom’s Journal, wrote of the publication.
The North Star, named for the celestial guide of the Underground Railroad, was first published by Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass in Rochester, New York, in 1847. As victims of injustice, Douglass believed Black people needed to share lived experiences themselves, not through the lens of white writers. Douglass’ column on racial discrimination, “The Den of Villany [sic],” did just that.
As Black Americans headed west at the onset of the California Gold Rush, Black-owned newspapers, including The Mirror of the Times, Pacific Appeal and The Elevator, sprung up in northern California. The newspapers covered the state’s Colored Conventions, a movement for legal justice for Black Californians, among other topics.
The Statesman, first published in Denver in 1888, served Black communities across the Rocky Mountains for decades. It’s slogan fittingly stated: “Organ of the Colored People in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah and New Mexico.” When “The Birth of a Nation” was released in 1915, the newspaper (then called The Denver Star) called upon readers to boycott the racist film.
The Chicago Defender, which still publishes online, has covered race in America for over a century. The newspaper reported on racial terror in the Jim Crow south, editorialized its support for integration of the military in World War I and II, and published job listings and train schedules in and to the North to help facilitate the Great Migration. The newspaper’s founder, Robert S. Abbott, was known for secretly distributing the newspaper across the American South by way of the Black Pullman porters who travelled up and down the nation’s rail lines.
Hundreds of Black-owned and operated print and digital newspapers still publish across the United States today. And many Black-centered blogs and news websites, such as The Root, The Grio and Blavity, work to share Black voices each and every day.
The Herald was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Leadville Mayor Harold “Bud” Elliott. Bud was a loyal friend to various members of our staff and a decades-long supporter of the newspaper. He held a strong conviction in the importance of a free press, a quick wit, and an unparalleled knowledge of and dedication to Leadville.
Before the pandemic, Bud often stopped by the Herald’s office on Friday afternoons. He’d settle into a chair half his size, tilt his felt hat, and get to talking about why his universe was “sparkling.” He’d tell us of his granddaughter’s first words, of his support for his favorite Democrats, of his son’s travels around the globe, of his dreams for Lake County’s future. He’d ask about our families, how advertisement sales were going, and what stories we were working on that week. He’d listen.
It comes as no surprise that Bud rarely asked if we had time to chat during these visits. He commanded our attention — he knew he needed no invitation.
Bud recognized that his presence brought joy, his words brought value, and his heart brought love. And he wasn’t afraid to show it.
We will miss him dearly.