When did black illustrated newspapers begin publication?

Edward Elder Cooper (1859–1908), journalist and editor, established The Freeman, in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1888. This was the first black illustrated newspaper and the first to make a feature of portraits and cartoons. First published July 14, 1888, the newspaper reached national prominence and made a fortune for its owner. It also was a part of an exchange list with white newspapers and periodicals, something that no other black newspaper enjoyed at the time. Cooper was born in Smyrna, Tennessee, but moved to Philadelphia and then to Indianapolis. He enrolled in school in Indianapolis, graduating first in his class of sixty-five. He was the only black in the class. By 1882 he was working with the U.S. railway mail service. In 1883 Cooper joined Edwin F. Horn and others in publishing The Colored World in Indianapolis. Although the paper was an immediate success, sometime later Cooper severed his connection with it. In 1886 he returned to the paper, now known as the Indianapolis World. He sold out his interest a year later and began publishing The Freeman. The quality of the paper, coupled with his business skills, led I. Garland Penn in The Afro-American Press to call Cooper the greatest black journalist. Cooper’s friend and neighbor W. Allison Sweeney noted in his sketch of Cooper in the New York Age, “I am glad that Edward Elder Cooper belongs to the negro [sic] race.”


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