At 26, William Scott II founded the first successful black newspaper in the U.S.

Theodora Aidoo Mar 17, 2020 at 03:00pm

March 17, 2020 at 03:00 pm | History

Theodora Aidoo

Theodora Aidoo | Staff Writer

March 17, 2020 at 03:00 pm | History

William Alexander Scott II founded Atlanta Daily World on August 5, 1928 - Pic Credit: findagrave.com

William Alexander Scott II founded the ‘Atlanta Daily World’, the first successful African-American daily newspaper in the United States when he was only 26 years old.

The paper was the first of a chain of black newspapers in America.

It is the oldest black newspaper in Atlanta, Georgia located then on Auburn Avenue, a place that was once considered the “Mecca of Black Commerce”.

The Atlanta Daily World served as the lone voice for the city’s growing black community. In the first issue, Scott stated that “The publishers of The Atlanta World have felt the need of a Southern Negro Newspaper, published by Southern Negroes, to be read by Southern Negroes.”

Born in 1902 in Edwards, Mississippi, Scott, was educated at Morehouse College. He began publishing a business directory in Atlanta until he started to publish the Atlanta Daily World on August 5, 1928. 

According to a report by Leonard Ray Teel, an Associate Professor of Communication at Georgia State University: “To bankroll his newspaper, William Alexander Scott II marshaled his collegiate debate skills to persuade a banker to risk thousands of dollars on an enterprise that seemed to have a little chance of success – a newspaper owned, managed and controlled by blacks”.

Years later, the banker reportedly confessed his astonishment as he witnessed the little newspaper prosper on advertising revenue.

Scott had persuasive salesmanship that was believed to have been honed by his years on the debate team at Atlanta’s Morehouse College.

William Alexander Scott II, founder of the Atlanta Daily World
Pic Credit: findagrave.com

He employed agents to solicit subscriptions from door to door and by 1930 the paper became one of the most widely circulated black newspapers in the Deep South. It moved from a weekly to a bi-weekly paper.

On March 13, 1932, the newspaper went into daily distribution, becoming the first African American paper in the nation to achieve that status and subsequently became the black community’s sole newspaper when the only other black newspaper, “Atlanta Independent” closed the following year.

The paper introduced itself as “the only newspaper published anywhere in the world by Negroes”.

He was able to attract advertising from both black and white businesses with national companies such as Sears and Coca-Cola as well as prominent local businesses, and this has been attributed to his effort in promoting the paper as a business venture rather than as a political tool.

Scott also developed the Chattanooga Tribune and the Memphis World, the first two of what eventually became a chain of 50 newspapers.

On a fateful day on the fourth day in February of 1934, Scott was shot and killed in front of his house. To date, no one has ever been convicted of his murder.

His brother, Cornelius Adolphus Scott, then became the head of The Daily World.

C.A. Scott, Editor of Atlanta Daily World
C.A. Scott, Editor of the Atlanta Daily World – Pic Credit: by Griff Davis

The newspaper covered police brutality, lynching, and the Scottsboro cases all through the 1930s, while aiding the promotion of black businesses. In the 1940s it canvassed against school segregation and the ill-treatment of black soldiers in World War II.  The paper also supported voter registration campaigns.

Atlanta Daily World became the first black newspaper to have an African American cover the White House in 1944.

After 63 years at the helm of affairs, C.A. Scott retired as publisher of the Atlanta Daily World in 1997 and Alexis Scott, granddaughter of W.A. Scott, was named publisher.

Three years later in May 2000, Cornelius Adolphus Scott died in Atlanta at the age of 92.

According to BlackPast, prominent journalists like Lerone Bennett, Jr., Executive Editor Emeritus, Ebony Magazine, Paul Delaney, a former New York Times editor, and Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb, an editor at the Washington Post began their careers at the Atlanta Daily World.

The Atlanta Daily World is currently owned by Real Times Inc., it publishes once a week and daily online.

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