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Conceived as a publication to entertain, inform, and uplift its readers, the Berea Citizen was inseparable from the evolving purpose of its sponsor, Berea College. From its founding in 1855 as the first interracial and co-educational institution of higher learning in the American South, Berea College was intended to serve as a counterpoint to the injustices of racial inequality and poverty. First published in 1899, the Citizen functioned as an account of college life and a source of information about the surrounding community. Most of the four-page issues carried international, national, and state news, notices of events involving students and alumni, and columns devoted to domesticity and agriculture. Stories of the pernicious influence of alcohol and the merits of temperance were also common, as was a recurrent examination of Mormonism's supposed "errors."
It was the paper's role as a recruitment tool for white students, however, that most shaped the paper's content. For almost three decades, the Citizen was the voice of William G. Frost, Berea College President from 1892 to 1920. With President Frost's tenure, the college's mission shifted significantly. As the school's newspaper made clear, the previous emphasis on African-American education had been displaced. Indeed, during Frost's tenure, the portion of African-American students at Berea declined precipitously from 52% to 16%, a proportion Frost believed more "suitable" because it more accurately reflected Kentucky's racial composition. Under Frost, what had once been a climate of extraordinary racial tolerance gave way to a policy assuring white students they would not have to room with or even socialize with blacks. The Citizen continued in this vein for two decades, before shifting in the 1920s to a greater emphasis on the local community. Although the Berea Citizen severed its connection to the college in 1984, the paper continues to publish to this day.
Provided by: University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY