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Title:
The Negro spokesman. : (Pine Bluff, Ark.) 19??-19??
Place of publication:
Pine Bluff, Ark.
Geographic coverage:
  • Pine Bluff, Jefferson, Arkansas  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Publisher:
[s.n.]
Dates of publication:
19??-19??
Frequency:
Weekly
Language:
  • English
Subjects:
  • African Americans--Arkansas--Pine Bluff--Newspapers.
  • Arkansas--Pine Bluff.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01213256
Notes:
  • Description based on: Vol. 3, no. 23 (Mar. 7, 1941).
LCCN:
sn 93050450
OCLC:
27179792
Holdings:
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The Negro spokesman. March 7, 1941 , Image 1

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The Negro Spokesman

Pine Bluff is the Jefferson County seat in southeast central Arkansas. The city prospered in the late 1800s due to its location, offering a river port for trading and farmland for growing cotton. By the end of the century there were several railroad lines through town. The Cotton Belt Railroad established its main engine maintenance shops in the city, becoming the county's largest industrial employer. The Colored Industrial Institute and Richard Allen Institute opened in Pine Bluff, two of the first religious schools for Black students in Arkansas. Branch Normal College also opened around this time as a college for freed Black Arkansans. Branch Normal later became the Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College and is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB).

Several highly successful Black businessmen lived in Pine Bluff around the turn of the twentieth century, including Walter "Wiley" Jones, one of the first wealthy Black people in the South, and Ferd Havis, state representative and "Colored Millionaire" of Pine Bluff. The city went on to produce many more prominent members in the business and arts industries. Despite the seeming opportunities for Black residents in the city, lynchings and other racially motivated violence also took place in Pine Bluff into the 1900s.

In the early twentieth century, major floods and droughts overwhelmed Pine Bluff, along with the economic depression that hit nationwide. Though river trade benefited the city's economy, the Arkansas River was also slowly eroding the city, washing away land and buildings. The Mississippi River Flood of 1927 quickly destroyed more of the area, including hundreds of businesses and tens of thousands of acres of cotton plants and farms. The Great Depression and drought in 1930 were next to devastate the city.

Pine Bluff had a brief boom during World War II, as federal munitions were produced at the Pine Bluff Arsenal. The arsenal became the largest industrial employer in the county, eclipsing the railroad as the county's main industry, running through the Cold War. However, by the turn of the twenty-first century, Pine Bluff's population had declined, and historic buildings began collapsing.

In 1938, toward the end of the Great Depression, Jeremiah Horatio Robinson, Sr. founded the Negro Spokesman newspaper in Pine Bluff. He served as the editor and publisher, advertising his paper as supporting "Negro Interests," rather than any one political party. The Spokesman was published once a week on Fridays. By 1950 it had a circulation of 7,000, in a city with a population of over 37,000. Robinson ran the paper until his death in January 1951. The paper was left to his wife, Mary A. Robinson, and son, Jeremiah Horatio Robinson, Jr., who continued to run it. By 1952 the paper's circulation had dropped to 5,000. By all accounts the paper was last issued in 1958.

Robinson's paper supported William Harold Flowers, lawyer and civil rights leader, in one of his court cases. Flowers frequently wrote articles for the Arkansas State Press (1941–1959) in Little Rock. In one of his editorials, on January 19, 1951, Flowers wrote that Robinson's support "won for him [Robinson] the admiration of the people of this community, for upon him pivoted the introduction of the means by which Negroes enjoyed gains which had been denied them for more than a half century – Negroes on jury panels." He stated also that Robinson, Sr. started the paper when "the uncertainty of the times found in him a matchless ability to speak militantly with conservative backing. The religious fervor which possessed him enabled him to crystalize his militant editorials for consumption of both white and Negro readers." The jury of peers was credited with helping Flowers win a case, commuting the death sentence of two Black men. That trial was the first time Black jurors served in Jefferson County since Reconstruction. Although his time at the Spokesman lasted for just over a decade, Robinson's work had a significant, memorable impact on his community.

As of this writing, there are only a few surviving issues of the Spokesman. 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