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The American Baptist was established in Louisville in 1879 and was the successor to the state’s first African-American Baptist publication, the Baptist Herald and the official newspaper of the General Association of Kentucky Baptists.
The Herald’s founder and a leader of the General Association of Colored Baptists, Rev. George W. Dupee, was a former slave from Gallatin County who bought his freedom and moved to Paducah where he established the newspaper in September 1873. Kentucky’s African-American Baptist churches were booming after the Civil War, creating opportunities for aspiring religious journalists. After five years, Dupee sold the Herald to William H. Steward, then secretary of the Association. Later that year, the paper re-emerged from Steward’s office in Louisville as the American Baptist. It is still in print today, making it one of Kentucky’s oldest continuously published newspapers.
Like Dupee, Steward was an energetic community leader. Three years before establishing the Baptist, he became Louisville’s first African American postman. Steward was a vocal opponent of racial segregation and in 1914 helped found the Louisville chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Steward also served as president of the Afro-American Press Association. After more than 50 years at the helm of the Baptist, he died in 1935.
Under Steward’s leadership, the American Baptist continued the Herald’s in-depth coverage of the Christian religion and activities in the state’s growing African American churches. The Baptist also covered developments in African American education as well. Of particular import was news from various African American and Baptist schools such as State University, often referred to as “our university.” Baptist Bible schools, known as New Era Institutes, also regularly reported on their efforts to train new ministers. Working with Steward on American Baptist was William James Simmons, the president of State University, the only institution of higher education in Kentucky controlled and established by African Americans. Simmons was also an organizer and subsequently the president of the American National Baptist Convention, later renamed the National Baptist Convention of the U.S.A. The American Baptist was for some time the official organ of the Convention.
Provided by: University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY