The first issue of the Bee was printed on June 3, 1882. William C. Chase, a lawyer, local politician, businessman, and native Washingtonian took over as the paper’s principal editor by the end of the first year of publication, and his superb editorial skills eventually turned the Bee into one of the most influential African American newspapers in the country. The Bee represented the Republican attitudes of its editor, although Chase did not hesitate to criticize Republican Party leaders when he thought they were on the wrong side of an issue. The initial motto of the paper was “Sting for Our Enemies—Honey for Our Friends.” Civil rights for America’s blacks was a primary concern. Although figures are not available for each year of publication, circulation of the Bee varied from a low of 1,250 in 1892 to a high of 9,700 in 1922.
The Washington Bee focused much of its attention on the activities of the city’s African Americans, and its society page paid special attention to events at local black churches. The paper also covered national issues; by the turn of the 20th century it was publishing articles about events across the country by its own correspondents as well as from wire services. Like most publications of the day, there was also an extensive array of advertising, much from white-owned businesses. The remaining space included the typical filler content purchased from various sources.
Through his editorials, Chase conveyed his passionate views on a variety of issues. The Bee’s editorials were noted for their criticism of Booker T. Washington and his apparently conservative positions on black racial progress. The attacks on Washington intensified in 1904 when the noted black educator provided financial assistance to the rival Colored American. The criticisms ended abruptly, however, when Chase’s paper began experiencing its own financial difficulties, and Washington, apparently, contributed financial support to theBee. Chase remained as editor until his death in 1921. Unfortunately, the paper’s financial troubles continued unabated. The Washington Bee, whose presses had operated at 1109 I Street in the city’s northwest quadrant, folded the year after its long-time editor died.
Provided by: Library of Congress, Washington, DC