Amsterdam News

The Amsterdam News is one of the oldest and most well known African American–owned newspapers in the United States; and perhaps the most well known African American newspaper in the world. The Amsterdam News was established by James H. Anderson on December 4, 1909. Anderson settled in Harlem, New York, and decided to embark on creating a newspaper that would reflect the lives of those in the Harlem community. The Amsterdam News, named after Amsterdam Avenue, the street that Anderson lived on, served as a forum where members of the Harlem community could give voice to their thoughts, fears, hopes, and aspirations. The African Americans in Harlem saw the 2-cent, 6-page newspaper as a place where their community was the focal point, as the Amsterdam News covered local events such as black community organizations and the local political and social issues of the time. In less than a year the Amsterdam News had become a success. As a result, Anderson decided to expand his newspaper and partnered with Edward A. Warren, an African American businessman. Some years later, in 1921, when Warren died, Anderson sold his share of the newspaper to Warren's relatives and turned to satisfying other goals. Anderson became a civic leader, served as a Boy Scout commissioner, and ran for alderman, while the paper he had founded continued to prosper.
In 1930, the Amsterdam News became the first African American newspaper to join the Audit Bureau of Circulation. Even when the Great Depression created many financial challenges for the newspaper, the Amsterdam News made history and became the first African American–owned newspaper to have a fully unionized African American staff. However, as the Great Depression continued to wreak havoc on the world economy, the Warrens' financial difficulties compelled them to sell the Amsterdam News for $5,000 to C. B. Powell and Philip M. H. Savory. Powell and Savory recreated the Amsterdam News, changing it from a community-based newspaper that mostly dealt with local issues in Harlem into a newspaper that represented the collective voice of African America. Thus the Amsterdam News began to deal with national politics that affected the African American community.
During the 1960s, the Amsterdam News was the premier newspaper for the civil rights and black nationalist movements. The Amsterdam News gave a platform to both the Judeo-Christian nonviolence of the civil rights movement, which was under the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the black nationalist movement of Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X. Malcolm X even wrote a column in the newspaper titled “God's Angry Man.” Despite this prosperity, in 1971 the Amsterdam News was once again sold, this time for $2.3 million to a group of African American businessmen that included Wilbert Tatum, who was to become important at the paper. With the leadership of this group, the Amsterdam News went through another transformation, moving away from its radical and militant stance and becoming a more liberal newspaper. As the result of a strike in 1984, Tatum became not simply an investor but also the publisher and editor of the Amsterdam News. Under the guidance of Tatum, the Amsterdam News returned to a more militant and progressive position. In 1997, Tatum's daughter, Elinor Tatum, became editor-in-chief of the newspaper, and under her supervision the Amsterdam News continues to be an avenue where the issues, concerns, and voices of African America are expressed.



Further Reading

  • Pride, Armistead S., & Wilson, Clint C. (1997). The History of the Black Press. Washington, DC: Howard University Press. This text gives a comprehensive history of the African American Press in the United States.
  • This is the official Web site of the Amsterdam News, which provides the history of the newspaper, full text articles, and other relevant information.