The Library of Congress

Search America's historic newspaper pages from 1789-1963 or use the U.S. Newspaper Directory to find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present. Chronicling America is sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities external link and the Library of Congress. Learn more

Pages Available: 14,181,901

The Montana Plaindealer, one of three African American newspapers in Montana, began publication in Helena in March 1906, under the editorial direction of Joseph B. Bass.  Bass moved to Helena in 1906 from Topeka, Kansas, where he worshiped in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and followed the precepts of “self-improvement” promoted by Booker T. Washington. In 1910, Helena had the largest African American population in Montana with 420 individuals out of a population of 12,500. 

The four-page, six-column weekly featured a regular column entitled, “Race News,” which documented incidents of racial discrimination across the nation.  One of the first issues featured a story about a lynching of two African American men taken from a jail in Springfield, Missouri, by a white mob.  Each issue contained exhortations by the editor Bass promoting civil rights and highlighting economic opportunities for African Americans in Helena and across Montana.  Just below the masthead in the inaugural issue the editor advocated for “the principles of peace, prosperity, and union,” while reporting the results of the Republican primaries for the city of Helena and noting the participation of two “colored” delegates from Helena.  In 1909 the Plaindealer expressed its opposition to an anti-miscegenation bill passed by the Montana legislature that March. 

The Plaindealer supported its publication through an active printing business, but by 1911 that business faltered and the newspaper closed its doors.

Provided by: Montana Historical Society; Helena, MT