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The Nashville Globe, 1906-1960 Abstracted


Lewis L. Laska, J.D., Ph.D. Professor of Business Law College of Business Tennessee State University Nashville, Tennessee

Copyright 2003 Lewis L. Laska

A weekly newspaper, the Nashville Globe, began publication on January 11, 1906 and ceased operation on July 29, 1960. This was the longest-running African American owned and operated newspaper in Tennessee history. The Globe, as it was called, serves today as a window to African American life, culture and aspirations in the first half of the Twentieth Century, reminding us of DuBois' statement that the problem ofthe Twentieth Century was the problem of the "color line," namely the struggle by African Americans to live in a society where racism was not merely tolerated, but enshrined in law.

The Globe was well known to African Americans in Nashville because it contained news of social interest - church events, weddings, social clubs, out-of-town guests, and of course, death notices. Because these notices were not published in the white newspapers, the Globe is likely the only place where the deaths of every day African Americans were recorded. Likewise, the Globe carried such notices for smaller communities in middle Tennessee. Of course, longer obituaries and lengthy reports of funerals of notable figures were included too.

The newspaper was born in protest. On April 4, 1905, the Tennessee legislature passed a law requiring separate seating on city streetcars. 1 (This was not a city ordinance, as many have asserted.) Under this law, the conductor had discretion regarding the placement of signs that read, "This part of the car for the colored race," and "This part of the car for white people." This meant that as the car got full, the conductor could move the signs and require African Americans to give up their seats for whites and move backward. The African American upper-class was especially outraged at this insult. The formation of a African American newspaper with proper financial backing (which survived) and an African American-owned streetcar company (which didn't) may be seen as the first positive steps by Nashville African Americans to combat segregation.

African American historian Bobby Lovett writes, "Nashville's best Negro newspaper was the weekly Globe, organized by R. H. Boyd and other Negro businessmen during a December 1905 meeting at the National Baptist Publishing Board's offices. The first issues appeared on January 14, 1906, to help promote a boycott against the new Jim Crow streetcar law. To separate this activity from the NBPB's nonprofit business, Charles A. Burrell (printer), Richard and Henry

Boyd, Dock A. Hart (printer) and Evans Tyree formed the Globe Publishing Company on January 2, 1911.,,2

Lovett ably summarized the philosophy and voice of the newspaper, "The Globe promoted black pride, protested against unfair practices of Jim Crow, blasted racial violence, supported the Republican party, endorsed local businesses, extolled middle-class culture and society, preached self-help and higher morality, highlighted the achievements of the elite class, decried vice and corruption, promoted cleanliness, and pushed Negro home ownership."

Lovett's description is accurate, but nothing better illustrates the philosophy of the Globe than a short article from the paper itself. "The Nashville Pure Milk Company has put a colored salesman on the wagon in the vicinity of Fisk University. If Negroes patronize him, he can hold that job. A hint should be sufficient." (September 26, 1913, p. 4)

According to white historian Samuel Shannon, the Globe stood for black progressivism. The paper was never satisfied with merely depicting social ills; constructive action was required. The Globe was the vehicle by which both African American and white Nashvillians were motivated to support the establishment of (now) Tennessee State University and the campaign to build a colored YMCA.4

Shannon also explains that the paper supported the self-help views of Booker T. Washington (who died in 1915) but not blindly, and the paper was in no manner under his "control" as were other African American papers which had financial ties to him.' For African Americans, the tension between tending to one's bucket wherever it lay and seeking to change the racist overculture played out in the realm of politics. One of the factors that undoubtedly led to the Globe's demise was politics. As African Americans shifted to the Democratic party, the paper stayed behind and began to look out of step. As late at 1956 it still quoted Booker T. Washington, "Whenever you find a Negro who is not a Republican, you find one who has been tampered with." (October 12, 1956)

Because the prime mover behind the Globe was Richard Henry Boyd (1855 [sometimes 1843]- 1922). Insights about the paper can be gained by looking at his life and work. He may have been born into slavery; his birth name was Dick Gray. Family lore suggests he became a cowboy; later he studied at Bishop College in Marshall, Texas, a school supported by white northern Baptists. By 1880 he had changed his name, became an ordained minister, and led in merging several state conventions of African American Baptists into the National Baptist Convention of America. The Convention offered a strong market for printed church material and Boyd responded by founding the National Baptist Publishing Board in Nashville in 1896.6

The financial success of the Board allowed Boyd's firm to publish, with little additional cost, a newspaper. The early years of the Globe featured the image and personal philosophy of Robert Henry Boyd.

African American historian Karen Fitzgerald Brown wrote, "The January 18, 1907 edition carried two quotes underneath the name plate. They were: 1. All things come to them that wait, providing they hustle while they wait. - Charles W. Anderson. 2. Get out of our sunshine. -

Robert H. Boyd." The head and shoulder picture of Boyd was frequently in the newspaper. Articles on Boyd's bank also appeared regularly."

Brown continues, "The editorial box in an early edition said the Globe was "published every Friday in Room A, Odd Fellows Hall, No. 411, Fourth Avenue North, Nashville." (The location was not far from the publishing Board on North Second Avenue.)" Wrote Brown,"In its early years the Globe sometimes seemed more like an in-house publication. Weddings, appointments, and other achievements by members of the Boyd family or Publishing Board executives received large front-page coverage. Much of the inside space was used to promote Publishing Board material. The split in the Convention in 1915 as well as World War I might have played a part in changing the Globe. By 1918, the paper was larger and carried more news, including news of black involvement in the war. Coverage of Reverend Boyd continued but was not as

prominent. ,,7

Reverend Boyd died in 1922 and was succeeded at the Board by his son, Henry Allen Boyd. H. A. Boyd seemed to have a greater interest in journalism. He served as secretary of the Associated Negro Press. During his lifetime, the Globe continued to improve. It was helped by a merger with the Nashville Independent in the 1930's. By the late 1930's, the nameplate carried The Nashville Globe in bold type with "and Independent" underneath in much smaller type.

The paper was attractive and informative with an impressive array of advertisers. These included H. G. Hills Stores, Carnation and Pet Milk, and Nashville Electric Service.

Henry Allen Boyd died in 1959 at age 83. The publishing board was passed to his nephew, Dr. Theophilus B. Boyd, Jr. Dr. Boyd halted publication of the Globe in 1960. He said his decision was because of the problems involved in producing the journal, including the high cost of production and declining sales." That the Globe would shut down just as the Civil Rights movement began to flower is one of the great ironies of Nashville African American history. Fortunately, it did cover the Nashville Sit-ins and related developments.

Historian Lester C. Lamon stressed the importance of the Globe while it was being published and as a record of history. He said that by 1929, twenty percent of the African American families in Nashville subscribed to the paper, and it reached nearly every African American community in the state. Between 1906 and 1930, it was regularly quoted and attacked in African American and white newspapers."

Brown observes that Lamon's history of Tennessee African Americans, published in 1977, ended with 1930. She asserts the Globe's prominence probably continued for at least two decades. In its latter years, however, it was filled with church and club handouts that seemed to receive little editing, according to Brown.

In his bibliographical essay, Lamon (1977) wrote, "Although the quality and content of black journalism varied widely in the early 1900s, Negro newspapers and magazines fill many of the historical gaps left by an absence of manuscript collections and institutional records. Tennessee produced several black newspapers during this period, but most of them had short lives and

copies were rarely preserved. Fortunately, a sizable run of the Nashville Globe does exist. Almost entirely ignored by historians, the Globe shunned most "canned" material and took an aggressive reporting and editorial stance. This newspaper's sensitivity to basic developments in the black community and its professional organization and appearance make it one of the most valuable sources for this study.'?" According to Lamon, "Peak circulation was estimated at about 24,000 in 1921. In the late 1930's, L. D. Williams was listed as editor and the address was 403 Charlotte Avenue. It was printed successively under the Nashville Globe Publishing Company, the Nashville Globe and Independent Publishing Company, and the Nashville Advocate Publishing Company."!'

Historians interested in the African American experience in Tennessee have in a sense "rediscovered" the Globe, and it was the subject of an article in the Tennessee Historical Quarterly in 1995.12 Today, no sound research on the history of middle Tennessee African Americans can ignore this newspaper. This is because the historiography has changed. No longer are African Americans the objects of history, they are the subject, and their voices themselves must be heard, both for substance and tone. To illustrate, in the past it was common for historians to use the following sentence: "In 1862 the Union Army began enlisting black soldiers." Today, the same information is restated, "Black soldiers began enlisting in the Union Army in 1862." This new approach is not simply a matter of style. Rather, it mandates reasoned and careful inquiry into African American life from the perspective of African American people speaking to each other.

Your abstractor "discovered" the Globe in 1977 while writing a dissertation that included a discussion of African American lawyers in Tennessee. The goal was to see how the African American press treated African American lawyers, notably a proto-civil rights lawyer Robert Mayfield and the much admired Z. Alexander Looby.

Over a decade later, your abstractor's ongoing interest in Tennessee African American history led to this project, namely an attempt to abstract all the major stories in the Globe so that other researchers would not have to examine the newspaper issue-by-issue. The effort took five years and about one thousand hours of work. Indeed, the project had to wait for cost-effective technology - the abstracts were typewritten and then scanned into a user-friendly format, namely aCD.

The gravest disappointment a user will encounter in examining these abstractions is this: The Globe issues from which the abstractions were taken is woefully incomplete. Precisely, the extant coverage is contained on seven reels of microfilm that was filmed by the State Library and Archives in 1965.

Precisely, the following issues of the Globe are missing. That is, they were not on the microfilm

The reels are labeled as follows, but the dates are deceiving. Reel 157: 1907-1910; Reel 158: 1911-1935; Reel 159: 1917-1918; Reel 160: 1939-1945; Reel 161: 1946-1956; Reel 162: 1957- 1958; Reel 163: 1959-1960. Simply stated, whole decades are missing, for example, the 1920's and most of the 1930's. Persistent rumor holds that the missing issues still exist at the Boyd Publishing Company, but your abstractor's efforts to locate them have failed.

and were not part of the Globe Abstracted.

Issues from January 11, 1906 through December, 1906. February 8, 1907; July 26, 1907; Nov. 28, 1907; March 8, 1912; Dec. 20, 1912; July 25, 1913. August 1, 1913 begins on page 2. There are no issues for the years 1914, 1915 and 1916. November 22, 1918 is missing. There are no issues for the years 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930. The microfilm, and therefore the abstracting, contains only the following issues for 1931 - April 3, 1931; October 2, 1931. Likewise, only the following issues exist for 1932 - March 4, 1932; April 15, 1932. Only the following issue exists for 1933 - October 6, 1933. Only the following exist for 1934 - March 16, 1934 and March 30, 1934. Only the following issues exist for 1935- November 22 and 29, 1935. No issues exist for 1936, 1937, and 1938. Only the following issues exist for 1939 - January 20, 1939 and February 3, 1939. All issues from July 5, 1940 through the end of that year are missing. Likewise, there are no issues for 1941, 1942 and 1943. Issues from January 3, 1947 through June 27, 1947 are missing, as are July 25, 1947 through August 29, 1947. July 25, 1947 through August 29, 1947 are missing as are November 7, 1947 through December 26, 1947. The only issue available for 1948 is March 26, 1948. Only three issues are available for 1949 - April 22, 1949, November 25, 1949, and December 9, 1949. March 25, 1950 is missing. April 20, 1951 and June 29, 1951 are missing. October 16, 23, and 20, 1953 are missing. February 19, 1954, March 26, 1954 and April 16, 1954 are missing, as are July 2, 1954 and December 24, 1954. August 19, 1955 and September 23, 1955 are missing, as are October 14 and November 4, 1955. December 19, 1958 and June 26, 1959 are missing. April 15, 1960 is out of order. July 8, 15, and 22, 1960 is missing. The last issue abstracted is July 29, 1960.

The criteria for abstracting follows: All news and feature stories of a non-sporting nature were captured along with most editorials. News outside of Tennessee was given lower priority. The reader should know that national news came from the Associated Negro Press which sent out weekly "tear sheets" and from reprinting stories from other African American newspapers on an exchange basis.


Great care was taken to include information useful to African American genealogists, namely every death notice, obituary, wedding and listing of marriages. This abstract of the Globe is certainly the largest single easily-available source of Tennessee African American genealogical data compiled in the state of Tennessee. The Globe had volunteer "stringers" who sent in news from greater middle Tennessee. Virtually all of it involved the Final Passage. Persons unfamiliar with African American life will be stunned to see the extent of black infant mortality in early 20th century Nashville. Consider the death notices of June 28, 1907. Of the thirty-three deaths, eight were infants under a year old. Two more were only two years old. Five were teenagers, one dying at the State Prison. Although the ages of two were not given, the oldest was only sixtyeight years old, and four were in their twenties.

Every newspaper has its "style" or "personality" and this was true with the Globe which tended

Missing from the abstracts are the sports news and social ("tea party") news. There are exceptions. Large parties featuring notable out-of-town guests are included. News articles of sports greats such as Joe Louis were abstracted, especially if these notables came to Nashville.

not to give evaluative reviews of performances such as vocalists, even ifthey were nationallyknown. The Globe probably assumed that everyone who mattered already knew about notable singers coming to, say, Fisk University - and had or would attend the concert without prompting or comment from the newspaper. Some editorial topics ran throughout the paper's life like a song - African American businesses wanted publicity but were very reluctant to pay for advertising, complained every editor.

Columnists favored an ironic tone, never angry or shrill, adopting a posture of the educated Victorian-valued businessman. Sometimes peeved at both races, the editorial voice rarely wavered from the conservative line on matters of politics. The Globe was the voice of quiet, but sometimes outraged indignation. Always ready to boost the race, it rarely mentioned scandals or wrongdoings, willing to let the Nashville Banner identify Negro criminals. Even matters that are considered "race issues" today such as the death penalty, got no notice in the Globe, although issues such as police brutality sometimes jarred readers from the expected fare of social, school, church, and sporting news.

Readers looking to these abstracts for illustrations (photographs) will be disappointed because images were not identified here. Your abstractor has prepared a separate list of illustrations, including images published with wedding announcements and obituaries. Your abstractor hopes someday to write a "picture" book of Nashville African Americans. Your abstractor's list contains about three thousand photographs in the Globe.

Newspapers are more than daily events summarized. They are the chronicles of our culture. No better insight into Nashville African American life can be gleaned than by studying the everyday concerns of the African American community in its own words. Big villains seem to capture most attention in white newspapers, but the Globe was a community paper. And wonderful surprises appear as this anecdote will show - the Globe helped your abstractor find William Dempsey Kelly. And who was he? Born into slavery in Maury County, Tennessee, Dempsey fought in the famous 54th Massachusetts Infantry (made famous in the movie Glory) lived his working life in Kansas as a letter carrier. What became of him? A search of the Globe Abstracted help locate Corporal Kelly's final resting place. As an old man he returned to live with his brother, the most respected African American man in Columbia, Tennessee, died and was buried there in 1913.

Your abstractor sincerely hopes users of the Globe Abstracted will prosper and delight in using his contribution to the history of a noble people in Nashville from 1906-1960.

1. See, Lena Marbury, "The 1905 Streetcar Boycott in Black Nashville." (Thesis, Tennessee State University, 1985). The statute was challenged by two able African American lawyers, Benjamin F. Booth and Joshia T. Settles, but found constitutional in Morrison v. State, 116 Tenn.

Lewis L. Laska Nashville, Tennessee January 2003

534,95 S.W. 494 (Tenn. 1906). The statute did not actually require African Americans to sit in the back, but that was the way it was implemented, beginning on July 5, 1905, with African Americans sitting from back to front and whites sitting from front to back.

2. Bobby L. Lovett, The African-American History of Nashville, Tennessee, 1780-1930: Elites and Dilemmas. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1999) 243. See also, "Nashville Globe," The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History & Culture (Nashville, Tennessee Historical Society, 1998) p. 674. (Describes it as a bi-weekly paper.)

3. Id. p. 244.

4.Samuel Shannon, "Tennessee," in Henry L. Suggs, ed., The Black Press in the South, 1865- 1979. (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1983) 332.

5.Id., p. 334-335.

6. Karen Fitzgerald Brown, The Black Press of Tennessee: 1865-1980. (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 1982) 107-108.

7. Id. p. 108-109.

8. Karen Fitzgerald Brown. "An Historical Study of the Black Press in Tennessee." (Thesis, Tennessee State University, 1976) p. 34.

9. Lester C. Lamon, Black Tennesseans, 1900-1930. (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1977.) p. 15-16.

10. Id. p. 302.

11. Id.

10. See, Christopher M. Scribner, "Nashville Offers Opportunity: The Nashville Globe and Business as a Means of Uplift, 1907-1913," Tennessee Historical Quarterly (Spring, 1995) 54- 67.