Tag Archives: African American Newspapers
“I have a horrible and heart-rending tale to relate,” read a letter from the editor of the Norfolk Herald and printed in the Sept.3, 1831 issue of the Genius of Liberty, “and lest even its worst features might be distorted by rumor and exaggeration, I have thought it proper to give you all and the worst information that has reached us through the best sources of intelligence which the nature of the case will admit.”
The “horrible and heart-rending tale” the letter described was a violent slave rebellion which had taken place about sixty miles west of Norfolk in Southampton County, Virginia. “A fanatic preacher by the name of Nat Turner (Gen. Nat Turner),” reported the Richmond Enquirer, “was at the bottom of this infernal brigandage. (Aug. 30, 1831)”
By the time the revolt was over, sixty men, women and children had been killed. But as Scot French’s book, The Rebellious Slave: Nat Turner in American Memory, explains, “First the white people fell. . . Then the black people fell.” The Richmond Constitutional Whig of Sept. 3, 1831 reported that many slaves were slaughtered by retaliating mobs “without trial and under circumstances of great barbarity.” The death toll among the enslaved, many of whom played no part in the revolt, was in the hundreds.
Rather than describe the events of “Nat’s War”, the Newspaper Project hopes to show how newspapers talked about Nat Turner and how they variously portrayed him in the decades following his life and death. With a myriad of descriptions over the years, from “distinguished immortal spirit” to “wild fanatical,” Turner’s legacy was appropriated by different groups to both frighten and inspire.
A single extant issue of the Reformer, an African American newspaper published in Richmond from 1895-1931, was recently added to Virginia Chronicle, the Library’s free and searchable digital newspaper database. Described by Lester Cappon as “an organ of Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers,” the issue, dated January 16, 1897, is yet another title from the collection of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California to be added to Virginia Chronicle.
Until now, the Reformer was not in the Library of Virginia’s catalog–because nineteenth century African American newspapers are so rare, the Virginia Newspaper Project is thrilled to have it as part of its digitized newspaper collection.
In addition to the Reformer, Virginia Chronicle also includes 1889-1910 issues of John Mitchell, Jr.’s Richmond Planet, 1886-1890 issues of Afro American Churchman, published in Petersburg, and 1892-1893 issues of the Church Advocate from Baltimore.
In the coming weeks, two editions of the Staunton Tribune will also be added to the digital database. One of the editions was published during the late 1920s/early 1930s. The other, with only one known copy from 1894, was published by Willis Carter, newspaper publisher and civil rights crusader. Thanks to Jennifer Vickers of Staunton, Virginia, the Library now houses this historically treasured newspaper.
Like John Mitchell, Jr., another early civil rights pioneer and newspaper man, Carter does not hold the place in Virginia history he rightly deserves. Fortunately, many years of careful research have led to From Slave to Statesman, The Life of Educator, Editor and Civil Rights Activist Willis M. Carter of Virginia, a new biography by Robert Heinrich and Deborah Harding.