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The advocate. [volume] : (Charleston, W. Va.) 1901-1913
Place of publication:
Charleston, W. Va.
Geographic coverage:
  • Charleston, Kanawha, West Virginia  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Advocate Pub. Co.
Dates of publication:
  • Began in 1901; ceased in 1913?
  • English
  • African Americans--West Virginia--Charleston--Newspapers.
  • African Americans.--fast--(OCoLC)fst00799558
  • Charleston (W. Va.)--Newspapers.
  • West Virginia--Charleston.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01213401
  • "The Advocate reaches more colored readers than any newspaper in West Virginia."
  • Afro-American.
  • Vol. 6, no. 24 (Feb. 7, 1907).
sn 85059812
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The advocate. [volume] February 7, 1907 , Image 1


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Established in 1901, the Advocate served Charleston's and West Virginia's African-American communities via its weekly columns. Reaching a wide African-American audience and promising them "more news than any other race paper published," the Advocate indeed offered its readers a plethora of local, state, and national news. The paper paid especial attention to African-American political and social affairs.

The founder of the Advocate was Samuel Starks, the first African-American state librarian for West Virginia. Starks was also a member and eventual leader of the Colored Knights of Pythias, an inclusive, international fraternal organization. The Advocate's offices were located in Charleston's Pythian building. Starks's death in 1908 prompted mournful remembrances from admirers across the country, including Booker T. Washington. The paper landed in the hands of John C. Gilmer, one of the Advocate's writers, and Gilmer edited the paper until its cessation. He had received his education at Storer College, a historically black institution in Harper's Ferry, as well as the University of Pittsburgh (then Western University of Pennsylvania), where he was the first African-American graduate.

The weekly Advocate kept readers abreast of current events, often focusing on racial issues. The paper didn't shy away from exposing racial discrimination and violence, including the emotionally laden topic of lynching. Yet the newspaper also covered lighter fare, reporting on civic and religious events, politics, foreign affairs, local gossip, and more. Reflecting the interests of its founder, the affairs of the Colored Knights of Pythias often received extensive coverage.

Politically, the Advocate reflected John Gilmer's independent streak. Although the newspaper supported the Republican Party—the party of Abraham Lincoln and emancipation—throughout much of its tenure, it was not averse to bucking the party line. In 1912 Gilmer threw his support behind Theodore Roosevelt's breakaway Progressive Party, serving as a delegate at the Progressive National Convention. Answering the charge that he was a traitor to his race by breaking away from the Republican Party, Gilmer responded by praising the Progressives' labor policies and called on African-American readers to "carefully weigh the broken promises of the Republican party and the open hostility of the Democrats with the frank declarations of the Progressives." This independent thinking was also exhibited in Gilmer's views on race in the South. Gilmer questioned whether whites would ever see African Americans as equals, and instead focused on earning true equality within segregated society. Despite these unorthodox stances, Gilmer was widely respected within the state's journalistic and African-American communities.

It is unclear why the Advocate's publication ceased in late 1912 or 1913. The paper remains, however, a window into West Virginia's vibrant African-American community in the early twentieth century.

Provided by: West Virginia University