Newly Digitized Historic Newspaper Tells about the Fight for African American Civil Rights in Connecticut, 1894-1904

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

 

 Date: February 27, 2017

 

 (HARTFORD)- Librarians digitizing the New Haven Daily Morning Journal and Courier (1880-1907) have come upon approximately three dozen news stories about an important African American organization called the State Sumner League of Connecticut.  Founded on August 22, 1894, the State Sumner League of Connecticut had thousands of members. The members who were in leadership played a major role in key national efforts to fight lynching and the enactment of Jim Crow laws in the South.

The League was devoted to the effort to desegregate public accommodations in Connecticut. The purpose of the League was explained in the (Journal and Courier, Aug 23, 1894), “as the improvement and advancement of the colored citizens of Connecticut to the end of healthy and material progress—politically, socially, intellectually, and morally”. The organization specifically urged the “full enjoyment of every civil right without distinction on account of birth, race, or previous social status.” 

The League’s first president, the bootblack J.P. Peaker, would later become an executive committee member of the National Afro-American Council (1898-1907) and a speaker at the historic 1898 Cooper Union meeting called in response to the Wilmington, North Carolina race riot of that year.  As part of its regular work, the League organized state tours of prominent national African American leaders, such as New York Age editor Thomas Fortune and Richmond Planet publisher John Mitchell, Jr.

Coverage of the annual meetings at Savin Rock, the numerous speaking tours, and other activities of the state and local chapters of the Sumner League can be found in the digitized newspaper for a ten year period, from the 1894 founding until 1904.  These articles can be retrieved by searching the free Library of Congress historic newspaper database called Chronicling America.  There, these stories about African American Gilded Age Connecticut from the Journal and Courier can be easily contextualized by viewing them side by side with related articles from  key African American newspapers also found in the database.  For this period, these include the Richmond Planet, the Washington Bee, the Saint Paul and the Minneapolis Appeal.  The national prominence of Connecticut activists in the period between the end of Reconstruction and 1905 can now be more fully documented.  For more information about the Sumner League and its place in the national movement, see “Connecticut African American Activists Found the Sumner League,” August 2, 2016 at ctdigitalnewspaperproject.org.

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The Connecticut Digital Newspaper Project has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor (http://www.neh.gov). The National Digital Newspaper Program http://www.neh.gov/divisions/preservation/national-digital-newspaper-program  grants support the creation of a national, digital resource of historically significant newspapers published between 1690 and 1963, from all states and U.S. territories. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this database do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

 

Contact: Christine Gauvreau
(860) 757-6525
Christine.Gauvreau@ct.gov

 

Contact: Robert Kinney
(860) 757-6668
Robert.Kinney@ct.gov