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The Chicago reflector. : (Chicago, Ill.) 1896-1???
Place of publication:
Chicago, Ill.
Geographic coverage:
  • Chicago, Cook County, Illinois  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
T.P. Rawlings
Dates of publication:
  • Began in 1896?
  • English
  • African American newspapers--Illinois--Chicago.
  • African American newspapers.--fast--(OCoLC)fst00799278
  • African Americans--Illinois--Chicago--Newspapers.
  • African Americans.--fast--(OCoLC)fst00799558
  • Chicago (Ill.)--Newspapers.
  • Community newspapers--Illinois--Chicago.
  • Community newspapers.--fast--(OCoLC)fst00871103
  • Illinois--Chicago.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01204048
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Description based on: Vol. 1, no. 45 (Oct. 16, 1897).
  • Latest issue consulted: Vol. 1, no. 45 (Oct. 16, 1897).
  • Preservation microfilmed in cooperation with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library as part of the United States Newspaper Program; the year 1897 (on 1 microfilm reel) is available for purchase from OCLC Preservation Service Centers.
sn 91055768
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The Chicago reflector. October 16, 1897 , Image 1


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The Chicago Reflector

A slight growth in Chicago's African American population toward the end of the nineteenth century accompanied a period of increased newspaper founding in the city. This included the 1878 establishment of the Chicago Conservator, thought to be Chicago's first African American newspaper and second in the state of Illinois. Following in its wake, the Chicago Reflector, published every Saturday, was one of about twenty African American newspapers started in the city between 1878 and 1900.

Estimated to have run from 1895 to 1906, the Reflector has only one surviving issue on record, that of October 16, 1897. That issue advertised a circulation of 3,000 and named T. P. Rawlings as editor. Little information is available about Rawlings, but printing service advertisements indicate Rawlings owned a printing business and was publisher of two other short-lived Chicago weekly publications, All About Us (1896-99) and the Church Organ (1893-98).

Contents of the 1897 issue suggest the Reflector functioned much as a small-town paper did, covering local (Chicago) illnesses, deaths, community social events, and church attendance and services, as well as personal travel. The issue includes a poetry section, cartoons, national and international news, and brief coverage of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Its remaining contents invite comparison with the editorial goals of the Conservator, described by scholar Ralph Nelson Davis as "one of the prototypes" of early twentieth-century Chicago Black newspapers in its promoting racial solidarity and the social progress of African Americans as a group.

A front-page article in the 1897 issue, "Negro Progress: What He has Accomplished Since His Emancipation: Facts and Figures," measures this progress in education and economic prosperity, providing counts illustrating its current state: "40,000 students in the higher institutions of learning, 30,000 negro teachers, 20,000 youths learning trades … 500 negro doctors, 200 lawyers … $10,000 in school property, $20,000 in church property … $60,000.000 in personal property." Also like the Conservator, the Reflector was without official political affiliation, as is indicated by the paper's motto: "An Independent, Illustrated Weekly Newspaper."

In 1896 the United States Supreme Court ruled, in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, that segregation was legal as long as African Americans were offered "separate but equal" accommodations. During this time, racial discrimination in the form of segregation in Illinois public schools was a frequent topic in Black newspaper commentary. An article on the front page of the 1897 issue discusses a "race war" in Alton, Illinois, following city efforts to reestablish segregation in Alton public schools. The piece references events leading to the lawsuit The People of the State of Illinois, ex-rel, Scott Bibb v. the Mayor and Common Council of the City of Alton, more commonly known as the "Alton School Case" (1897-1908). The issue also includes the second part of a serialized essay by a Mr. C. H. Sparks entitled "Status of the Negro: A Review of His Moral, Religious, Social, and Financial Progress—His Critics Answered." The piece argues against predictions of "race extinction" and challenges claims that African Americans could not be classically educated.

Provided by: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library, Urbana, IL