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A single extant issue of the Reformer, an African American newspaper published in Richmond from 1895-1931, was recently added to Virginia Chronicle, the Library’s free and searchable digital newspaper database. Described by Lester Cappon as “an organ of Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers,” the issue, dated January 16, 1897, is yet another title from the collection of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California to be added to Virginia Chronicle.

Until now, the Reformer was not in the Library of Virginia’s catalog–because nineteenth century African American newspapers are so rare, the Virginia Newspaper Project is thrilled to have it as part of its digitized newspaper collection.

In addition to the Reformer, Virginia Chronicle also includes 1889-1910 issues of John Mitchell, Jr.’s Richmond Planet, 1886-1890 issues of Afro American Churchman, published in Petersburg, and 1892-1893 issues of the Church Advocate from Baltimore.

In the coming weeks, two editions of the Staunton Tribune will also be added to the digital database. One of the editions was published during the late 1920s/early 1930s. The other, with only one known copy from 1894, was published by Willis Carter, newspaper publisher and civil rights crusader. Thanks to Jennifer Vickers of Staunton, Virginia, the Library now houses this historically treasured newspaper.

Like John Mitchell, Jr., another early civil rights pioneer and newspaper man, Carter does not hold the place in Virginia history he rightly deserves. Fortunately, many years of careful research have led to From Slave to Statesman, The Life of Educator, Editor and Civil Rights Activist Willis M. Carter of Virginia, a new biography by Robert Heinrich and Deborah Harding.

Former Virginia Newspaper Project colleague and longtime research assistant to Harding, Margaret Rhett, has written on the blog about Carter’s journal and other research materials related to his life, which have been donated to the Library of Virginia. Check it out to learn more about this significant collection which is now available thanks to the combined efforts of those who wanted Carter’s life remembered. Some of the materials, including the Tribuneare already available digitally. By adding the title to Virginia Chronicle, it will be searchable as well.

In addition to the Tribunethe People’s Journal, published in Josephine City, a community in Clarke county established in 1870 for former slaves, will be available on microfilm in the near future and digitized within the next few months. This collection was generously lent to the Project by the Josephine School Community Museum in Berryville, Virginia.  The Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, located in Richmond’s Jackson Ward district, is lending the Library its collection of the St. Luke Herald to be microfilmed and digitized as well. Look for more in-depth blog posts on these projects soon.

Visit the Library’s African American Newspapers Guide for a list of available newspapers in the collection–many of which, if not digitally available, are on microfilm. And if you have newspapers that fill in gaps or add to these rare publications, please let us know, so they too can be accessed for historical research.

Kelley Ewing

Senior Project Cataloger


  • Riley K. Temple says:

    My father, David L. Temple, Sr. (1911-1995) wrote a column for the Richmond Planet and the Richmond Afro American off-an-on for many years. It was entitled “Churchill Spotlight,” or it was at its end, which was about 1990, or so. He was not a professional journalist; it was his avocation. He was a 47 year insurance agent for the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. We lived always on Churchill, first at 1305 N. 24th Street (he moved that home from the 1200 block of 25th Street in the 1930s), then for forty years at 3102 East Grace Street, just off Chimborazo Park.

  • wm hawk says:

    My alumni association is doing research on John W. Barco, who was once the Vice President of Virginia Union University. I want to know if there were any old articles written about him in the African American newspapers that are in your historical files? If there are any articles about this gentleman, how do I go about gaining access to these articles?

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