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The Forrest City herald. : (Forrest City, St. Francis County, Ark.) 1896-18??
Place of publication:
Forrest City, St. Francis County, Ark.
Geographic coverage:
  • Forrest City, Saint Francis, Arkansas  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Forrest City Herald Pub. Co.
Dates of publication:
  • Vol. 1, no. 1 (Feb. 29, 1896)-
  • English
  • African Americans--Newspapers.
  • African Americans.--fast--(OCoLC)fst00799558
  • Arkansas--Forrest City.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01220205
  • Forrest City (Ark.)--Newspapers.
  • Saint Francis County (Ark.)--Newspapers.
sn 90050374
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The Forrest City herald. February 29, 1896 , Image 1


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The Forrest City Herald

Forrest City is the St. Francis County seat on the eastern edge of Arkansas. It is in the flat Delta region of the state, formed by the lowlands of the Mississippi River. Forrest City was built on the high ground of Crowley's Ridge, a series of hills running north-south through the county. Before the Civil War, the area was known for its cotton plantations worked by large numbers of enslaved Black people. After the war, many of the newly freed people turned to sharecropping. By that point, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) had been established in Arkansas. Ministers from the AME Church began preaching to Black Arkansans in Helena (Phillips County) and Little Rock (Pulaski County) after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

In early 1896, a group of AME pastors met in Phillips County to discuss church affairs and how to uplift the Black community in Arkansas. They decided one of the ways to do this was to start a newspaper that would encourage the Black community while simultaneously promoting the mission of the AME church. They chose Forrest City as the center of operations since several of the pastors led churches there. At the head of the group was Reverend H. G. Harrison, who chose fellow AME pastors to assist him with the newspaper. The pastors established the Forrest City Herald Publishing Company with John Jones as president, Harrison as managing editor, William S. Sherrill and R. R. Block as associate editors, and A. Hawkins as treasurer. They published the first issue of the Forrest City Herald on Leap Day, February 29, 1896, and went on to print their 4-page paper every Saturday.

The Herald had the support of the existing paper in town. The Forrest City Times (1871-1919) editors wrote on March 6, 1896, after they received the first issue of the Herald that it was "a very creditable paper, and we wish our colored friends much success."

On the Herald's masthead was printed: "Devoted to Religious and Literary Work. Motto: Never Give Up." In the inaugural issue, the editors wrote that they were not publishing the paper to pick a fight with any denomination, political party, or race. They believed "in cultivating a good disposition to all mankind."

The Herald became an outlet for news about the AME church. Harrison and Block both wrote columns related to religious matters, including sermons and information about church meetings. The paper also gave space to other Black ministers from eastern Arkansas to print sermons and letters related to current events in the Black community. Some of those current events included the burgeoning Back to Africa movement. In the 1890s, several members of the Black community, concerned about the rise of Jim Crow laws and the gradual stripping away of political rights, began to organize groups to make the move to Liberia. Members of Harrison's family were leaders of the movement in Forrest City. As a result of his close ties to the movement, Harrison printed numerous stories discussing what prospective emigres would need to know before undertaking the journey. He also published letters from people who were already settled there.

As part of its literary focus and work for the "betterment of the African race," as described by the Forrest City Times' March 6, 1896 review of the paper, the Herald included a correspondent school program and at-home review lessons. The school lessons included grammar, orthography, arithmetic, history, and physiology. There were also editorials on the importance of education, writing that children should learn something every day to become knowledgeable adults with a chance at a better life. In addition to the religious and educational content, the Herald also included local, state, and national news.

In the Herald's first issue, the editors gave the disclaimer that though the members of the Herald Publishing Company were young, they had calculated the cost of running the paper and had plans to stay. The Herald continued to be published until at least November 1898, but it is unknown when the paper ceased publication. In 1900, Harrison left Forrest City to run a church in Pine Bluff.

As of this writing, there are only a few surviving issues of the Herald. This is the case for many Black newspapers, as past archival organizations were often neglectful of preserving the Black community's written heritage, and the newspapers did not survive. When newspapers disappear, Black voices are forever lost, leaving a large gap in the understanding of our history.

Provided by: Arkansas State Archives