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Thesis and History of Newspapers

At the time of the riot, different newspapers skewed their reporting based on their political slant. This essay will focus on two newspapers the Raleigh News and Observer, a Democratic newspaper, and the Richmond Planet, a Republican, African American owned newspaper. 

The News and Observer was very involved in the politics that led up to the riot. Josephus Daniels editor of the News and Observer conspired with Julian Carr to purchase the paper as a tool for the Democratic Party in 1894.[1] In fact, the News and Observer was such a reliable vehicle, Furnifold Simmons, the chair of the local Democratic Party, used party funds to buy and distribute newspapers to those who would not normally have access.[2] Furthermore, the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Report stated “To fuel the argument for the redemption of Wilmington, [from Negro Domination] the News and Observer sent a correspondent to the city regularly to generate more fever.”[3]

The other newspaper I will focus on is the Richmond Planet out of Richmond, Virginia. The Planet had an African American publisher and editor named John Mitchell Jr. who was twenty-one years old when he took over the newspaper. The newspaper was fairly new and was failing when Mitchell took it over. Mitchell was focused on ending lynching and had a flair for both writing and drawing political cartoons. Mitchell graduated high school as valedictorian and taught in the public school until the school board forced out nearly all black teachers. Mitchell represented the Jackson Ward Black district on Richmond’s city council and served as the head the Virginia Knights of Pythias, an international non-sectarian fraternal organization which encourages many benevolent activities. In 1902 Mitchell founded the Mechanic’s Saving Bank for blacks. Mitchell ran unsuccessfully for governor of Virginia in 1921 as a Republican. Mitchell frequently used his newspaper as a bully pulpit to try and right the wrongs he saw.[4]

[1] LaRae Umfleet, “1898 Wilmington Race Riot Report,” North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, (accessed March 20, 2013), 61

[2] Ibid

[3] LaRae Sikes Umfleet, A Day of Blood: The 1898 Wilmington Race Riot (Raleigh NC: North Carolina Office of Archives and History, 2009), 60

[4] Donna M. Lucey, "Brother from the Richmond Planet." Humanities 31, no. 4: 20. 2010. MasterFILE Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed April 22, 2013), 21