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African American Newspapers in Kansas

Benjamin Singleton kept a scrapbook of newspaper articles and advertisementsIn the 1870s Benjamin "Pap" Singleton, a formerly enslaved person, envisioned thriving Midwestern communities populated by African Americans. Singleton placed his hopes for a better life on a colonizing campaign he directed toward residents of Kentucky and Tennessee. He successfully distributed his message through African American newspapers.

Two hundred black settlers responded to "Pap" Singleton's campaign, moving west to Nicodemus in Graham County, Kansas. They completed their long journey from Lexington, Kentucky, to the central Kansas plains in 1878. By 1886 the community supported three black newspapers.

Black newspapers offer insight into the history of African American communities. These local publications often featured church news and items of specific interest to readers, usually without the support of advertising. They also discussed issues considered politically incorrect by other publishers.

Since 1876 black newspapers have been published in Kansas representing 22 communities and 18 counties. The first publication encouraged black voters to participate in the upcoming election. The paper went out of business the week after the election. Over the years many other newspapers have emerged and faded during election years urging blacks to exercise their right to vote in order to preserve their hard-won freedom.

The Colored Citizen, a Topeka newspaper, promoted education of African Americans. As early as 1878 editor William Lewis Eagleson and other publishers spoke out against segregation in schools. A proponent of colonization, The Colored Citizen encouraged black migration in the late 1870s and provided a unique message of realism. "Never leave home for Kansas without having some money over and above what it takes to pay your transportation," Eagleson warned. "For the old men and women chances for great success in Kansas are not flattering."

Throughout history black newspapers have given a voice to local communities in Kansas, promoted change, and championed important causes and leaders.

The Historical Society has partnered with a commercial vendor to digitize the content of 68 titles of African American newspapers published in Kansas.  They are available in the State Archives and Library research room.  These titles are also available on microfilm via interlibrary loan.  A listing of African American newspaper titles by community is also available.

Entry: African American Newspapers in Kansas

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: April 2010

Date Modified: January 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.