Tag Archives: Richmond Planet
By Claire Johnson, Virginia Newspaper Project Intern
People have always been complex, making history a complicated topic. When history is distilled down to be straightforward, the reality of human failings and flaws are bypassed in favor of a clear-cut narrative. When national and regional pride are added to the mix, historical facts often become controversial. Citizens of the American South know this well; modern debate over the history of the Confederacy, and its monuments, easily becomes heated.
Though the Civil War ended in 1865, the war continued throughout the South, rearing its head in acts of violence and terror against black communities, now ostensibly free citizens of the United States. While some efforts to sow fear were overt, such as those of racist groups Knights of the White Camellia, the Red Shirts, or the Ku Klux Klan, others were unspoken. In addition to vigilante terrorism, the lives of black Southerners were made worse through legal means. In Virginia, poll taxes were enshrined in the constitution in 1876, shrinking the black electorate. black men were further disenfranchised after the Virginia constitution was rewritten in 1902.
It is a matter of much contention today whether these monuments to Confederate leaders were one such message to the black communities of the South or simply monuments built to honor the Civil War dead and Southern history.
Confederate monuments began going up in Richmond not long after the end of the Civil War. In 1875, a statue to Stonewall Jackson was erected on the Capitol grounds. However, the statues that now line Monument Avenue went up later, beginning 25 years after the end of the war, in 1890, with Robert E. Lee. The other Confederate statues on Monument Avenue came later: J.E.B. Stuart and Jefferson Davis’ statues were added in 1907, 42 … read more »
A graduate student in Public History and two film students have created a short but excellent documentary for The National Museum of African American History and Culture. Titled Seeds of Resistance, the film is described as, “An untold story of community activism centered around the African American community in Richmond, Virginia during the 1904 streetcar boycotts.”
The documentary focuses on Richmond in the early 20th century, local activism, and the crushing impact of Jim Crow laws on the African American community.
Errol Somay, Director of the Library of Virginia’s Virginia Newspaper Project, contributed to the narration. Also included, from the Library of Virginia’s collection, are stunning images from the Richmond Planet.
Anyone interested in the Richmond streetcar boycotts will benefit from viewing Seeds of Resistance.
Produced by: Bethany Nagle
Associate Producer: Chelsey Cartwright
Cinematography and Editing: Elizabeth Herzfeldt-Kamprath… read more »
Horrible Butcheries at Wilmington—The Richmond Planet’s coverage of the 1898 insurrection in Wilmington, North Carolina
By Anne McCrery, Virginia Newspaper Project Volunteer
On November 10, 1898, in response to the election of a biracial Fusionist government, a group of white Democrats in Wilmington, North Carolina organized a mob, attacking the city’s African American community and ultimately overthrowing the city’s government. Within a couple of days, the mob had killed between 15 to 60 African Americans, destroyed the office of the Daily Record, Wilmington’s black newspaper, and run its editor out of town.
It had also succeeded in enacting the only coup d’etat in American history. Despite the mob’s complete chaotic defiance of the law, little was done by governmental authorities to quell the violence, with President McKinley ignoring pleas for assistance. Unsurprisingly, the Richmond Planet covered the events in Wilmington extensively. With headlines such as “Horrible Butcheries at Wilmington–the Turks out done,” the Planet decried the racialized violence of the mob and lambasted the government for its failure to respond. The Richmond Planet, as an African American newspaper, offers a unique and valuable perspective on the 1898 Wilmington insurrections, as much of the mob’s animosity was directed toward Wilmington’s black newspaper, the Daily Record. Prior to the 1898 elections, significant tension had been building between the Daily Record and the white media of North Carolina, particularly the Raleigh News & Observer, over the issue of sexual relationships between black men and white women. The white media had engaged in a propogandic panic that black men were sexually predatory toward white women, a common assertion by white supremacists that had dangerous repercussions for black men, who were frequently lynched due to false accusations of sexual assault.
Alex Manly, the editor of the Daily Record, responded to these inflammatory assertions by stating that when sexual relationships between white women and black men did exist, they were consensual. … read more »
The Library of Virginia is the home of the Virginia Newspaper Project. In 1997, the Library of Virginia moved to a new building at 800 East Broad Street in Richmond, Va. The building takes up the entire block between 9th and 8th street going east and west and between Marshall and Broad Street looking north and south.
When a Project colleague mused that he remembers taking a bus from a station he thought was near the Library’s current location, we scrambled to do a bit of research. And sure enough, on the north-west corner of 9th and Broad Street sat the local Trailways bus station.
It stood there for decades until the late 1980′s when Greyhound established a centralized depot at a new location in Richmond. The colleague reminisced about catching a bus at the old Trailways station at 9th Street, which got him to Staunton, Virginia where he often cooled his heels for hours waiting for a connection to take him north toward Winchester and Woodstock. Here is a photo from the late 1950′s. The local Trailways bus station stood at the same location as where the Library of Virginia stands today.
We’ve talked about the 1950s, now let’s go back 125 years ago. Back then, the Swan Tavern occupied the East 800 block of Broad Street. Built in the late 1780′s, the Swan Tavern managed a remarkably long life until it was demolished in 1904. And, yes, notable people such as Thomas Jefferson and Edgar Allan Poe were known to have slept there and most likely to have enjoyed an evening cordial or two.
But more to the … read more »
Come on down to the Library of Virginia tomorrow night for what promises to be a fascinating discussion of the life and legacy of John Mitchell, Jr. For details, read the description below, taken from the Library’s calendar of events:
Early in the 20th century, the term “race man” described a public figure who promoted the interests of African Americans on every front. John Mitchell published the Richmond Planet from 1884 to 1929 and made it one of the most influential black newspapers of its time. Greg McQuade of Richmond news station WTVR moderates a conversation on this important figure with historian Roice Luke, biographer Ann Field Alexander, and journalist Brenda Andrews.
A reception follows the program and rarely seen editions of the Planet will be on display.
Most of us know John Mitchell, Jr. as the tireless “fighting” editor of the Richmond Planet, a newspaper he ran for 40 plus years beginning in the mid-1880′s. But Mitchell was a complex, multi-faceted person whose varied interests included a fascination for the Stanley Steamer, an automobile of the early 20th century that ran on steam produced by a vertical fire-tube boiler.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch has a great article that focuses specifically on John Mitchell, Jr. and the Stanley Steamers he owned during his lifetime.
The automobile’s steam boiler mechanism was based on technologies that had existed for decades, so it’s no surprise that someone would develop a personal vehicle based on the same concepts that drove railroad locomotives and factory motors. For an informative master class on the workings of a classic Stanley Steamer, check out Jay Leno’s Garage where he shows you all the necessary steps to getting the vehicle steamed up and ready to roll: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Me8b0ed59s
To-date, thousands of pages (1889-1910) of the Richmond Planet have been made available online at Chronicling America and well over 300,000 pages of Virginia imprint newspapers which makes up the Newspaper Project and the Library’s contribution to the National Digital Newspaper Program.
In 1902 Louisiana became the first to pass a statewide statute requiring mandatory segregation of streetcars, followed by Mississippi in 1904. That same year, Virginia authorized, but did not require, segregated streetcars in all of its cities, leaving it up to companies to decide whether or not they would segregate their services. On April 17, 1904, the Times Dispatch printed the article “Separate the Races” on page seventeen of its Sunday edition, in which the Virginia Passenger and Power Company outlined a new set of rules. The Company surely hoped its new policy to enforce racial segregation on its cars would go unnoticed by Richmond’s populace. Instead, the company’s new regulations led to a citywide boycott of its services and most likely hastened its financial demise.
“This company has determined to avail itself of the authority given by a recent state law to separate white and colored passengers,” read its statement in the Times Dispatch, “and to set apart and designate in each car certain portions of the car or certain seats for white passengers and certain other portions or certain seats for colored passengers. . .The conductors have the right to require passengers to change their seats as often as may be necessary for the comfort and convenience of the passengers and satisfactory separation of the races.” White riders were to sit in the front of cars, while black riders were to sit in the back, but because there were no permanent partitions on the cars, conductors had the authority to assign seats as the ebb and flow of black and white riders shifted. This gave conductors the power to play a “bizarre game of musical chairs with passengers.” The company’s new regulations also gave conductors the authority to arrest or forcibly remove anyone who did not comply … read more »
Evergreen Cemetery is located a few miles from downtown Richmond and even farther from Monument Avenue. Much of the cemetery is overgrown by junk trees, ivy, brambles and kudzu. In a small clearing is a tallish grave stone in the form of a cross and this is where Maggie Walker is buried.
And nearby is the newly placed gravestone to John Mitchell, Jr., one of the towering figures in Virginia’s African American history.
Until recently the cemetery had been overrun by creeping nature and the inexorable effects of time and human neglect.
But if you read any one issue of the Richmond Planet, it becomes clear that John Mitchell, Jr. should not be neglected or forgotten. As editor and publisher of the Planet from 1885 to 1925, Mitchell carried out a life story that is the stuff of fiction. As one colleague put it, if you summarized his life in a couple of pages, one would swear it was mostly made up.
And so, on a blustery Saturday, February 25, 2012, a few family members and interested onlookers attended a simple, yet heartfelt ceremony to commemorate the unveiling of a new grave marker for John Mitchell, Jr., a ceremony that serves in a humble way to give the “fighting editor” his due, 83 years after his death in 1929.
To browse through hundreds of issues of the Richmond Planet and other historical newspapers, visit Chronicling America, a searchable online database with nearly 5 million pages and more than 725 titles from around the country. And visit the Library of Virginia’s web exhibit about Mitchell, “Born in the Wake of Freedom.“… read more »