MAPS -> West Virginia’s First Colored Newspapers & Frederick Douglass in West Virginia

As a note, we have confirmed the existence / publication of at least *six* Colored Newspapers in West Virginia prior to January 1, 1885. We believe the number to be likely closer to ten but the research continues.

Of these six newspapers we believe only the Pioneer Freeman / Pioneer Press was published for more than five years. The New Era / New National Era was published by Frederick Douglass and his sons in Washington City from January 1870 until the fall of 1874. Even a short-lived newspaper, such as The People (Wheeling; 1882 – 1883), counts toward the count.

Interestingly enough this subject specific area of research is an outgrowth of furthering investigating the visits and sojourns Frederick Douglass made to the Mountain State over the last 30 years of his life.

Of the six Colored Newspapers published in West Virginia prior to January 1, 1885 Douglass was directly connected and/or associated with at least four of these publications through relationships with these papers founders / editors / publishers.

These maps and research have been registered with the United States Copyright Office at the Library of Congress. Copyright enforcement will be strictly enforced.



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Brief Note on lost history of 140th Anniversary of West Virginia’s First Colored Newspaper(s) & Frederick Douglass

Due the support and encouragement of Black By God, a print and online publication out of Morgantown, West Virginia, we have been inspired and motivated to further investigate the lost history of West Virginia’s first Colored newspapers.

Naturally, this lost history is closely interconnected with the lost history of Frederick Douglass in the Mountain State.

As previously noted in this space, the archival record indicates George Washington Welcome of Wheeling, West Virginia established (and/or co-established) the Wheeling Times sometime in 1882. Welcome later sold his interest in the Pioneer Press, published out of Martinsburg in the state’s Eastern Panhandle, to John Robert Clifford in 1884.

Welcome was known within the Mountain State – and the region – as a publisher and organizer. In September 1883 William Calvin Chase of the Washington Bee praised Welcome, demonstrating the reputation and goodwill Welcome had among his regional and national peers within the Black press.

Sifting through these notes we have come to understand that by the fall of 1882 there were apparently at least three separate Black newspapers published in West Virginia – two in the state capital of Wheeling and a monthly published in Harpers Ferry in Jefferson County, bordering the nearby states of Maryland and Virginia.

It is unclear the publishing chronology of the Wheeling Times and Harpers Ferry Messenger but both of these newspapers were being circulated throughout the state and region by the summer of 1882. Evidence suggests that sometime in the fall of 1882 William Allison Sweeney established the short-lived People out of Wheeling, West Virginia.

So, therefore we can conclude that nearly two years before John Robert Clifford secures ownership of the Pioneer Press in Martinsburg at least three Black newspapers were established in West Virginia by January 1, 1883.

Just as the water often gets muddy so does the historic record.

By the spring of 1883 only the Harpers Ferry Messenger was still being published – soon to relocate to Shepherdstown, further upstream on the Potomac River in Jefferson County. Reportedly, by this time publication of the Wheeling Times and the People had been suspended.

To complicate this survey of historic Black newspapers in the Mountain State there is fleeting documentation to suggest that Black newspapers were published at intervals within the window of January 1, 1882 to January 1, 1885 in Parkersburg and Charleston and/or the Kanawha River Valley, as well as potentially other areas of the state.

Furthermore, within the window of January 1, 1882 to January 1, 1885 at least three separate Colored newspapers were published within the city of Wheeling, possibly four.

Additionally, within this window at least two Colored newspapers had Wheeling correspondents. The Cleveland Gazette, published weekly in Ohio, and the monthly Pioneer Press published out of Martinsburg had a regular correspondent (editor) from the state’s capital city.

By my current count, Frederick Douglass was connected and/or associated with at least three of the founding members of West Virginia’s first Colored newspapers and at least one Wheeling Correspondent within this window from 1882 to 1885.

Why is this somewhat pedantic, obscure and esoteric history of great consequence and significance? In 2022 we are celebrating the 140th anniversary of the Black press in the Mountain State but those who celebrate does so alone.

For generations and decades history, and acutely Black American history, has been minimized and mythologized. In our modern era it has become increasingly and vapidly commercialized. Within this contemporary culture the details get lost. The dates lost. The names lost. The spirit lost. The inspiration lost. The history lost.

Conceived in Civil War, the Civil Rights history of West Virginia is uniquely unique and has been largely overlooked and lost. Tis a study of the Mountain South from the Ohio River to the Potomac River. It is not a singular study of a lone individual, which can dominate the room and advance a selective history which can often be incomplete, misleading and even inaccurate.

A little less than two decades ago the history and accomplishments of John Robert Clifford, an associate of Frederick Douglass for years, were recognized across the state – and country – due a confluence of community activism and public scholarship. Clifford was no doubt a trailblazer in his own time and one of the most significant figures in the history of Black West Virginia until World War 1. The groundbreaking legal work of Clifford stands on its own within the pantheon of not just West Virginia Civil Rights history but the history of the American Civil Rights movement.

However, during this period of focus on Clifford from the mid-2000s until now it became accepted state lore that Clifford founded the Pioneer Press in Martinsburg as the state’s first Colored newspaper. The dates for the paper’s founding vary from 1882 to 1883 to 1884.

Source creep crept in on the history of West Virginia’s first Colored newspaper(s) and settled in about a dozen years ago.

As we celebrate the 140th anniversary of the Black Press in West Virginia – today being kept alive and strong by the lone soldier of a publication, Black By God: The West Virginian – it is the responsibility upon a variety of organizations, state, county and local agencies, public historians and scholars, community leaders, philanthropists and journalists and present-day newspapers to properly uplift and recognize this lost history once and forever.

More discursive notes forthcoming.

JM / LHA

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students explore Frederick Douglass in Capitol Hill; upcoming walking tour -> Saturday, November 12, 2022 @ 1:00 PM



Frederick Douglass in Capitol Hill Walking Tour – November 12, 2022 @ 1:00 PM

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A note on Frederick Douglass and “mighty thin” President Franklin Pierce

In January 1856 Frederick Douglass passed through Maine’s capital city of Augusta delivering a lecture in which he shared an anecdote he had heard about Franklin Pierce while speaking in the President’s home state of New Hampshire.

The brief remark was noted by “E” in their letter from Augusta to the Ellsworth American reporting that 800 people had attended the lecture by Douglass.

Deployment of humor was a rhetorical device Douglass utilized with success for decades across his expansive public career. While the archival record demonstrates Douglass had an ample supply of reoccurring jokes and stories to pull from that he shared when speaking in different areas and to different audiences, he was also known to be able to respond with humorous wit to potential hecklers. Furthermore, Douglass was known to make jokes at the expense of discriminatory practices he encountered while riding on the railroads, seeking lodging and getting something to eat.

One day we may compile our own compendium of FD jokes. In the meantime, here is yet another example of Douglass earning the trust and goodwill of an audience through the use of humor and wit.


Being, says he, in Concord, I made inquiry of a person of apparent intelligence, of the reputation of Frank Pierce at home.

-The response was “Oh, he is a pretty g-o-o-d fellow here in New Hampshire – but come to spread him all over the Union he’s mighty thin.”

Ellsworth American. Ellsworth, Maine. January 25, 1856. p. 2. “Augusta. January 22, 1856. Dear Editor.”

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Walking Tour: The Lost History of Frederick (Bailey) Douglass in Old Annapolis -> Sat., November 19, 2022 @ 9:30 AM

Learn the lost and unknown history of Frederick Douglass in Old Annapolis; his relationships with AME ministers, governors and local families. For more information: https://tinyurl.com/FDinNaptown

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Video: “Douglass mural vandalized in Rochester” [News 8 WROC]


I would check the alibi for Christine L. Ridarsky.

In Rochester, both murals and statues of the Douglass family are vandalized. We are not surprised in the least.

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Howard County Times (Baltimore Sun): “Columbia author to present the ‘lost history’ of Frederick Douglass’ visits to Howard County” by Ethan Ehrenhaft; October 28, 2022

Thank you to Ethan Ehranhaft of the Howard County Times (Baltimore Sun) for his feature on the upcoming presentation on the Lost History of Frederick Douglass in Howard County at the Elkridge Library Tuesday, November 1, 2022 at 7:00 PM.


story link *here*

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2013 videos of NBC Washington Black History Month program on Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.

In reviewing some of our archives we came across a 2013 Black History Month program from WRC-NBC / NBC 4 Washington focusing on Frederick Douglass in Washington City.

Danella Sealock was kind enough to interview John Muller, author of Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia and Dr. Ka’mal McClarin, curator of the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.

Although it is not Thursday we felt appropriate to share as apparently we didn’t initially share these videos almost a decade ago.


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Livestream interview w/ Doni Glover of BmoreNews.com [Mon, October 24, 2022 @ 9AM]


Tune in live! Visit Doni Glover’s YouTube – *Here*

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Schedule a Walking Tour: The Lost History of Frederick Douglass in Frederick, Maryland (private & group tours available)

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