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Thu, 05.04.1848

John Q. Adams, News Publisher born

John Quincy Adams

*John Quincy Adams was born on this date in 1848. He was a Black businessman and newspaper publisher.

Adams was one of four children of the Reverend Henry Adams, minister of the Fifth Street Baptist Church of Louisville, Kentucky, and Margaret Priscilla Corbin of Chillicothe, Ohio. He received his elementary and secondary education in private schools at Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and Yellow Springs, Ohio, later graduating from Oberlin College in Ohio.  After graduation, he returned to Louisville, where he began teaching in his father's school and other parts of the state.

In 1870 Adams left Louisville to seek his fortune in Arkansas. He taught in Little Rock and progressed quickly to the position of assistant superintendent of public instruction for the state of Arkansas. This appointment was due to the influence of his uncle, Joseph C. Corbin, the superintendent of public instruction. In time, Adams became even more enmeshed in Republican state politics, serving twice as secretary to Republican state conventions. In the presidential campaign of 1872, Adams appeared on the same ticket as Ulysses S. Grant and was elected a justice of the peace.  Before the Democratic resurgence of f876 forced his temporary retirement from politics and return to Louisville, he served successively as an engrossing clerk of the state senate and deputy commissioner of public works. In Louisville, Adams taught for several years in the public school system. During this period, he advanced within the inner councils of the local Republican Party, eventually serving on the city and state executive committees. Adams was named an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention of 1880.

In 1879. He and his brother, Cyrus Field Adams, began the publication of the Louisville Bulletin, a weekly newspaper. The newspaper did well for seven years, and Adams employed it to good advantage in bolstering his political career. His creativity and vigorous editorials were well-known in Louisville. At Adams' behest, the first National Afro-American Press Association assembled in Louisville in 1880.

Adams continued publishing the Bulletin until 1886, when he sold his interest to the American Baptist. Hilyard's invitation, coupled with reversals in Adams' political and publishing fortunes in Louisville, led him, at the age of thirty-eight, to settle in St. Paul, Minnesota, for the rest of his life.  Adams initially served as assistant editor under F. D. Parker. When Parker resigned to become a clerk in the Ramsey County register of deeds office in January 1887, Adams was advanced to the sole editor of the Western Appeal.

To this end, Adams incorporated the Northwestern Publishing Company on February 1, 1887. Its intended purpose was to give the Western Appeal a broader financial base and larger capital reserves from which to draw. The Northwestern firm was probably the first successful job order printing office established, owned, and operated by Black entrepreneurs in St. Paul. He realized that if the Western Appeal were to grow and show a profit, it would require more subscribers and advertisers. One move was to open a Western Appeal office in Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas, and Washington DC offices of the Western Appeal.

Adams was one of the leading protagonists for civil rights in the Upper Midwest. He refused to believe that ability and success were the monopolies of one race. He reasoned that, given the opportunity, Black men could compete successfully with whites. In one editorial, he said: "We know ourselves, as men, to be their equals in every respect, and we would advise them that when they wish to set a standard to judge us by in any case, to take themselves. What would not suit them would not suit us. Remove all barriers on account of race and color, and, like water, we will find our level."

The Afro-American Council met in the senate chambers of the State Capitol on July 9, 1902. Other organizations met elsewhere.  Despite troublesome opposition from anti-Washington forces, Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee machine won control of the entire convention and saw its slate of officers elected. Washington's domination, however, did not prevent sessions from being long and stormy. Before the St. Paul convention, resistance to Washington amounted to little more than criticism of his approach to race problems and his seeming acquiescence to disfranchisement and segregation in the South.

Opposition was chiefly verbal and represented no organized threat to his leadership. During the months preceding the St. Paul conference, rumors began to circulate regarding an impending coup by radical forces. Washington's display of authoritarian power in St. Paul led radicals to a grand demonstration against his leadership at the national convention of the council the following year in Louisville.  After the Louisville meeting of 1903, radicals led by W.E.B. Du Bois and William Monroe Trotter withdrew from active membership in the organization. They took with them many of the younger and more able leaders.

Adams supported Washington at both St. Paul and Louisville conventions. But Adams began to entertain second thoughts about Washington's semi-dictatorial control over race leadership following the "Boston riot" of 1903, in which Trotter was jailed for an oral challenge of Washington and his leadership at a Boston church meeting to which Washington had been invited. Adams' pro-Washington stance had alienated him from the vanguard of the Black protest movement in the United States. Under the leadership of younger men, the protest movement, with its ever-accelerating pace and burgeoning intellectual fervor, bypassed the aging St. Paul editor.

After 1900 the Appeal suffered a dramatic decline in prestige and circulation, although it hung on for many years. The Appeal closed its Dallas office in April 1901, its Washington office in January f903, and its St. Louis and Louisville offices in October 1903; in March 1913, the Chicago Appeal ceased publication, leaving St. Paul and Minneapolis offices as the sole remnants of a once-proud journalistic empire.  Although diminished in stature and circulation, the Appeal continued its vitriolic crusade against discrimination and injustices shortly after John Quincy Adams's death in September 1922.

To Become a News Editor & Publisher


David Vassar Taylor, contributing article,
Minnesota Historical Society
345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102-1906

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