Established in 1912 at 2314 Market Street by brothers Joseph and William Mitchell, the paper has a long and inspiring history. They had limited start-up funds to pour into the venture, but were determined to provide organization, structure, and voice to the black community. Determined to get the paper off the ground, the Williams brothers brought some of their relatives up from Alabama to train as linotypists, engravers, and printing press operators. At the outset, the brothers paid a friend with a printing press $35.00 per week -- a substantial sum back then -- to print the newspaper until they were eventually able to establish their own printing plant. Having their own printing press allowed the paper to rapidly increase its reach in the community.
In the paper’s early years -- 1912 through to the J.E. Mitchell era in 1925 -- the Argus was not a financial success. But with the onset of the Mitchell era, the ARGUS continued to publish despite its economic headwinds. Mitchell’s resolve eventually paid off, however, as the Argus became one of over 200 African American newspapers -- out of around 3,000 nationwide to survive through financially hard times. Mitchell built upon the crusading tradition of the ARGUS, using it to address everything from discriminatory business practices to Ku Klux Klan violence. He wrote: “We hold that… if Uncle Sam does nothing for the protection of the colored people in cases where it is the government’s plain duty, that in itself gives encouragement to all kinds of other evils [such] as injustices in the courts and other petty discriminations”. Through the ARGUS, Mitchell continued his advocacy for better schools and educational opportunities, as well as full Civil Rights for the African American community.
The ARGUS continued playing a vital role in helping to organize and advertise boycotts and protests around St. Louis in the Civil Rights Era. For example, The Jefferson Bank Protests, a set of boycotts and sit-ins at the bank occurred because the bank did not employ African Americans in key positions (at that time, they were relegated to only working as part of the janitorial staff). The Argus covered and participated in the demonstrations, helping to expand the local debate -- and then the local dialog -- about racial equality. The ARGUS also sponsored programs and political movements that supported the rise of African American St. Louisans into a variety of civic platforms. An organization dedicated to social reform, The Citizen’s Liberty League, was noted as one of the first and most effective minority political movements in St. Louis... and it was sponsored by the ARGUS. Together, they helped African Americans gain jobs in the fire and police departments, increasing their social influence and political clout as well.
Today, the ARGUS sports a different look, but it is still a “NEVER-SLEEPING CRUSADER” when it comes to issues of Social Justice, Political Fidelity and Economic Progress. It continues to uplift the African American community, as well as the larger community of Greater St. Louis and the surrounding Midwest Region with its coverage of relevant issues, inspiring individuals and events, and its dedication to "Speaking Truth to Power" for the ascendance of a more inclusive, ethical and vibrant St. Louis.
In celebration of Black History Month I sat down with Publisher of the St. Louis Argus ( founded in 1912) TD El-Amin of St. Louis, MO. He Tells us more about the history of the African American news paper, and the importance of the black voice.