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Sat, 12.04.1909

The New York Amsterdam News is Founded

On this date in 1909, the New York Amsterdam News was founded. It has been one of the leading Black weekly newspapers for over 100 years.

The four-page newspaper was established by James H. Anderson in the heart of Harlem with an initial capital of $10. The Amsterdam News was the mouthpiece for one of the largest Black communities in the United States. It covered the Black community's social news such as weddings, engagements, births, and charity events.  In its heyday, it had a circulation of over 100,000. By the mid-1940s it was one of the four leading Black newspapers in the country, along with The Pittsburgh Courier, The Afro-American, and The Chicago Defender.

The Amsterdam News was named after the avenue on which James H. Anderson lived, once known as San Juan Hill. The business offices were relocated to Harlem in 1910. During this early period, between the 1910s and 1920s, Black journalists such as T. Thomas Fortune wrote for and edited the paper.  In 1926, Sadie Warren, the wife of Edward Warren, one of its first publishers, purchased the paper. It was resold 10 years later to two West Indian physicians, Clelan Bethan Powell and Phillip M. H. Savory, who served as editor-publisher and secretary-treasurer.

Under their management, the now semi-weekly paper became the first Black newspaper to have all of its departments unionized. The Amsterdam News then began to focus on not only local but also national, events. Many prominent African Americans including W.E.B. Du Bois, Roy Wilkins, and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., contributed columns and articles. When Marvel Cooke joined the staff, she became the paper's first female news reporter. The Amsterdam News supported many American Civil Rights causes. During World War II, with other Black papers, it fought for civil rights in the armed forces.

In the 1950s and 1960s, it chronicled events of the civil rights movement such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Freedom Riders bus-burning incident, and numerous riots. The paper was the first to focus attention on Malcolm X, and in 1958 published his column "God's Angry Man." In 1971, the paper was purchased for $2.3 million by a group of investors who included Percy E. Sutton, Wilbert A. Tatum, and several Harlem business associates.

In July 1996, Tatum bought out the last remaining investor, putting the future of the paper in the hands of the Tatum family. In December 1997, Tatum stepped down as publisher and editor-in-chief and passed the torch to his daughter, Elinor Ruth Tatum, who was 26 years old at the time. Wilbert Tatum remains at the paper as publisher emeritus and chairman of the board.

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