Top of page

Newspaper Pioneer Press (Martinsburg, W. Va.) 1882-19??

View All Front Pages

About Pioneer Press (Martinsburg, W. Va.) 1882-19??

The Pioneer Press styled itself as an “independent weekly newspaper devoted to the moral, religious and financial development of humanity.” Published weekly from 1882 to 1917 in Martinsburg, West Virginia, the Press emerged as the first African-American newspaper in the state. The Press enjoyed a wide readership as one of the most circulated African-American newspapers in the country. Four pages in length, issues offered readers an urbane source of news, commentary, and literature.

The Pioneer Press was the product of its founder and editor, John Robert “J.R.” Clifford. A free black who had served in the Union army, Clifford graduated from Storer College in Harper’s Ferry and passed the West Virginia bar in 1887. Clifford spent his life fighting for racial equality and African-American civil rights, both as a lawyer in the courtroom and via the pages of the Press. Clifford also worked alongside W.E.B. DuBois in founding the Niagara Movement, precursor the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The Pioneer Press reflected its editor’s fight for racial equality within its columns. Articles scorned Southern lynching, the establishment of Jim Crow laws, and segregation. Accordingly, the Press usually supported the Republican Party, although Clifford at times clashed with party leaders who balked at openly supporting racial equality. In 1912, the Press abandoned its usual support of Republican candidates and endorsed independent Bull Moose candidate Theodore Roosevelt for the presidency. When Roosevelt lost to Woodrow Wilson, the Press scathingly bathed Wilson in a partisan and racist light.

Besides political activism, the Press also called upon its readers to improve themselves and achieve a better place in society. Articles focused on self-improvement urged readers to exhibit greater religious piety and learn stable occupational trades and also offered agricultural advice. The Press also used its pages to spotlight upstanding African-American members of the community and to promote businesses and organizations that did not discriminate against blacks.

The Pioneer Press kept its readers abreast of the latest local, national, and international news. Labor struggles, the debate over prohibition of alcohol, state and national elections, American military involvement in Mexico, and World War I all received coverage within the newspaper’s pages. Clifford’s Pioneer Press proved unafraid to act in opposition to prevailing political winds and took stances against prohibition and American military involvement abroad.

His health failing, J.R. Clifford ceased publication of the Pioneer Press in October 1917, concluding a 35-year run—the longest of any African-American newspaper of the time. Via the Press‘s pages, Clifford had battled racial discrimination, supported Republican political views, and sought to imbue African-Americans with a sense of identity and strength.

Provided By: West Virginia University

About this Newspaper


  • Pioneer Press (Martinsburg, W. Va.) 1882-19??


  • Clifford, J. R. (John Robert), 1848-1933, editor

Dates of Publication

  • 1882-19??

Created / Published

  • Martinsburg, W. Va. : J.R. Clifford


  • -  African American newspapers--West Virginia
  • -  African Americans--West Virginia--Newspapers
  • -  Martinsburg (W. Va.)--Newspapers
  • -  African American newspapers
  • -  African Americans
  • -  West Virginia
  • -  West Virginia--Martinsburg
  • -  United States--West Virginia--Berkeley--Martinsburg


  • Newspapers


  • -  Weekly, -
  • -  Began in 1882.
  • -  Editor: J. R. Clifford, .
  • -  Microfilmed by the Library of Congress for the Committee on Negro Studies of the American Council of Learned Societies.
  • -  Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • -  Description based on: Vol. [2], no. 5 (September 1884).


  • volumes

Call Number/Physical Location

  • Newspaper

Library of Congress Control Number

  • sn83025146

OCLC Number

  • 9285482

ISSN Number

  • 2640-3714

Additional Metadata Formats


Rights & Access

The Library of Congress believes that the newspapers in Chronicling America are in the public domain or have no known copyright restrictions. Newspapers published in the United States more than 95 years ago are in the public domain in their entirety. Any newspapers in Chronicling America that were published less than 95 years ago are also believed to be in the public domain, but may contain some copyrighted third party materials. Researchers using newspapers published less than 95 years ago should be alert for modern content (for example, registered and renewed for copyright and published with notice) that may be copyrighted. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an item and securing any necessary permissions ultimately rests with persons desiring to use the item.

The NEH awardee responsible for producing each digital object is presented in the Chronicling America page display, below the page image – e.g. Image produced by the Library of Congress. For more information on current NDNP awardees, see

For more information on Library of Congress policies and disclaimers regarding rights and reproductions, see

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Pioneer Press Martinsburg, W. Va. -19??. (Martinsburg, WV), Jan. 1 1882.

APA citation style:

(1882, January 1) Pioneer Press Martinsburg, W. Va. -19??. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Pioneer Press Martinsburg, W. Va. -19??. (Martinsburg, WV) 1 Jan. 1882. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,