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Newspaper The American Citizen (Topeka, Kan.) 1888-1909

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About The American Citizen (Topeka, Kan.) 1888-1909

The American Citizen was started on February 23, 1888, in Topeka, KS, by John L. Waller (also known as J. L. Waller) and R.K. Morton. They formed the Waller & Morton Publishing Company. It would become one of the state’s longest-running African American newspapers. Born enslaved in Missouri, Waller migrated to Kansas to practice law during the “Exoduster” movement in the late 1870s. Waller first attempted journalism when he started and edited the Western Recorder from 1883-1884 in Lawrence, KS. Once he moved to Topeka, he capitalized on the city’s access to the state government and its large population of African American voters. Under his direction, the American Citizen was a Republican four-page weekly. It criticized Democratic policies and advocated for African American unification behind the Republican party. It protested African American inequality, such as segregation and mob violence in Kansas and the nation. The paper also published legal and publication notices, as well as local and state business advertisements. It contained local, regional, and national news exchanges and correspondence. The paper also reported about African American religious, educational, and political activities in the state and country.

The paper aided Waller’s rise in politics. Waller left the American Citizen as an editor to pursue his political career full-time in late 1888. Working under the American Citizen Publishing Company, Morton would publish the paper under the motto, “A Free Ballot and a Fair Count,” with H. W. Rolfe, W. J. Johnson, J.L. Sims, and J. Hume Childers. In its July 19, 1889 issue, the paper announced its move to Kansas City, Wyandotte County, KS. It promised that “the new company is composed of gentleman of experience, intelligence and means,” who “have purchased an entire new outfit and will edit and print their own paper.”

The 1890s saw many shifts for African Americans and the American Citizen. After his defeat in the 1890 state auditor election, Waller sold his stake in the American Citizen to pursue a political career abroad. The paper briefly came under the editorship of an African American Republican lawyer Warner T. McGuinn from Baltimore, MD in 1890. The American Citizen, also referred to as the Kansas City American Citizen, reached its most controversial era when C. J. H. Taylor, an African American Democrat and lawyer from Georgia, became editor. He would edit the paper from 1891 until 1893. Under his leadership, the paper became nonpartisan. It urged Kansas African Americans to consider political independence and assimilation, enlist in and support Kansas’s segregated military companies during the Spanish-American War, and protest lynching and segregation. Taylor’s Democratic beliefs and editorials made him and the paper unpopular. He often evoked criticism from papers such as the Leavenworth Advocate and the Southern Argus.

From 1891 to 1897, the paper would have a majority African American woman editorial staff and experience many changes. These women, including Lutie Lytle, Frances J. Jackson, Mary E. Nero, and Mrs. C. H. J. Taylor, acted as corresponding agents, columnists, and editors. Many other editors and managers, including George A. Dudley and Waller, came and went. Dudley, the business manager, temporarily expanded the American Citizen‘s base to serve Kansas City, MO, under the motto, “An Independent Organ Published in the Interest of the Negro.” He also published the Daily American Citizen from 1898 to 1900. Waller returned briefly as editor in 1896, after serving as consul to Madagascar and being imprisoned in France for eleven months. He used the paper to form the Western Negro Press Association. He and other Midwest African American journalists founded the Association in 1896. He left the paper in 1897 to organize and command the Company C of the 23rd Kansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment in Cuba for the Spanish-American War. By 1897, the paper’s editorship would change to W.C. Martin. Despite financial strain and editorial changes, the American Citizen maintained a consistent structure and style. It added additional material on local, state, and national economic matters and special holiday issues. The paper also boasted about its circulation of 7,000 and being “the leading Colored newspaper of the West” in its 1897 issues. On January 1, 1899, the paper temporarily changed its headline to “The Only Daily and Weekly Negro Paper in this section of Country. A Bonafide Success. With Over Five Thousand Daily Readers. An Advocate of Equal Rights and Justice.”

The American Citizen outlived many of its rivals and set the tone for African American newspapers to come. The paper would be published until at least 1909 under Dudley as the editor-in-chief, publisher, and business manager, and Reverand G. McNeal as the associate editor. In its surviving issues from 1907, it is unclear why the American Citizen stopped publication.

Note: A portion of the issues digitized for this newspaper were microfilmed as part of the Miscellaneous Negro newspapers microfilm collection, a 12-reel collection containing issues of African American newspapers published in the U.S. throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Creation of the microfilm project was sponsored by the Committee on Negro Studies of the American Council of Learned Societies in 1947. For more information on the microfilm collection, see: Negro Newspapers on Microfilm, a Selected List (Library of Congress), published in 1953. While this collection contains selections from more than 150 U.S. newspapers titles, for further coverage, view a complete list of all digitized African American titles available in the Chronicling America collection.

Provided By: Library of Congress, Washington, DC

About this Newspaper

Title

  • The American Citizen (Topeka, Kan.) 1888-1909

Dates of Publication

  • 1888-1909

Created / Published

  • Topeka, Kan. : Waller & Morton, 1888-

Headings

  • -  African American newspapers--Kansas
  • -  African Americans--Kansas--Newspapers
  • -  Kansas City (Kan.)--Newspapers
  • -  Topeka (Kan.)--Newspapers
  • -  African American newspapers
  • -  African Americans
  • -  Kansas
  • -  Kansas--Kansas City
  • -  Kansas--Topeka
  • -  United States--Kansas--Shawnee--Topeka
  • -  United States--Kansas--Wyandotte--Kansas City

Genre

  • Newspapers

Notes

  • -  Weekly
  • -  Vol. 1, no. 1 (Feb. 23, 1888)-
  • -  Published in Kansas City, Kan., July 26, 1889-<1909>
  • -  Also issued on microfilm from the Library of Congress, Photodupliation Service.

Medium

  • volumes

Call Number/Physical Location

  • Newspaper

Library of Congress Control Number

  • sn85032031

OCLC Number

  • 12759891

ISSN Number

  • 2994-838x

Additional Metadata Formats

Availability

Rights & Access

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Cite This Item

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

Chicago citation style:

The American Citizen Topeka, Kan. -1909. (Topeka, KS), Jan. 1 1888. https://www.loc.gov/item/sn85032031/.

APA citation style:

(1888, January 1) The American Citizen Topeka, Kan. -1909. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/sn85032031/.

MLA citation style:

The American Citizen Topeka, Kan. -1909. (Topeka, KS) 1 Jan. 1888. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/sn85032031/.