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Fri, 06.08.1894

The Iowa Bystander Newspaper is Published

*On this date in 1894, The Iowa State Bystander was first published.  This was an Iowa newspaper targeted toward an African American audience.

It was founded in Des Moines by I.E. Williamson, Billy Colson, and Jack Logan.  Now part of the Des Moines Register, it is considered the oldest Black newspaper west of the Mississippi. The paper was first called Iowa State Bystander; the term "bystander" was given by its editor, Charles Ruff, after a syndicated column, "The Bystander's Notes," written by Albion W. Tourgée, a civil rights advocate who wrote for The Daily Inter Ocean

The name was changed to Bystander in 1916 by owner John L. Thompson, who published the paper from 1896-1922. Thompson traveled around the state seeking new subscribers, raising the circulation to 2,000 copies, and changed the paper to a 6-column 8-page layout.  In 1922, Thompson sold the newspaper to Lawrence Jones, who, within two years, sold the paper to James B. Morris for $1,700.

Morris changed the name of the paper to Iowa Bystander. Morris and the paper developed close ties with the NAACP and fought the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in Iowa.  The Iowa Bystander was one of 20 papers represented at the first meeting of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, formed in 1940 by John H. Sengstacke, to support newspapers serving Black communities.

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