This story is part of our new series, Beyond Black History. Got a story about Charlotte’s Black history? Email email@example.com.
March is a landmark month in the history of Black media.
On March 16, 1827, the nation’s first Black-owned newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, was published in New York City. But what about Charlotte? When did the Queen City get its first Black-owned news publication?
After hours of research and calls to archives throughout North Carolina, I discovered that, long before The Charlotte Post, there was The Charlotte Messenger.
The earliest-known publishing date for The Charlotte Messenger is June 17, 1882, according to an article from The People’s Graphic Design Archive.
The Charlotte Messenger was founded and edited by William “W.C.” Smith, who in 1874 also established the Fayetteville Educator, which was published for one year.
The Fayetteville Educator was the first newspaper in North Carolina to be edited and published by men of color.
Its content was in line with the Republican Party of that era — the party of Abraham Lincoln — as writers attempted to address the disenfranchisement of the Black community by their white, Democratic counterparts, according to an article published by DigitalNC.
In 1875, The Fayetteville Educator went out of business when its owner had difficulty getting funding.
Smith then established The Charlotte Messenger, which was similar to its predecessor. Most of the news it contained — short stories, poetry and advice — came from larger newspapers in the South.
Its salutatory, written by Smith, reads: “In presenting this little sheet to our people, it is hoped they will appreciate it as an honest effort on our part to promote the moral, intellectual and material standing of our people.”
Smith goes on to write, “…but seeing the great need of an organ in this section to defend the principles of the Republican party, exponent of the rights of colored people, we have undertaken the task….”
Some sources say The Charlotte Post was founded in 1878, although Henry Houston, its founder, said otherwise in an interview more than 80 years ago.
In that 1939 interview, Houston said he established the Charlotte Post “12 years ago,” which means The Post would have been founded in 1927.
Furthermore, Houston was born in 1878, which might explain how some people confused the publication date.
The current leadership of The Charlotte Post noted that there may have been multiple versions of the newspaper, apart from the publication we know today.
“There’s at least three different start dates for that flag that is The Charlotte Post – 1906, 1918 and 1927,” Herbert White, editor-in-chief at The Charlotte Post, told me, noting that the current publication has been in circulation since that latter date.
“Other people may have started a publication called ‘The Post,’ and they failed,” White said. “That is the best guess that we can come up with.”