Life & Culture

Newspapers Help Change Community Life

By the first decade of the 20th century the population of Rondo was fairly well established. One quarter of these people were native-born Minnesotan, and some families had been St. Paul residents for two generations. Although folks in Rondo made great strides in various vocations, the newspaper industry and those who work in the industry, help bring change to the community.

Don’t wait. The time will never be just right!

Church and social leader, T.H. Lyles, had formed the Robert Bank’s literary Society at Pilgrim Baptist Church. In 1885, Samuel Hardy and John Burgett had founded the Western Appeal, the first major newspaper in the Black Communit. F.D. Parker was its first editor. In 1886, the paper was solded to J.K. Hilyard and Thomas Lyles, who brought in John Quincy Adams as its associate editor.

Through the newspaper, Parker mounted a campaign in the city to hire Black firefighters. His efforts bore fruit, and William Godette was hired as the city’s first Black fireman. Because his efforts did not stop there, James Burrell, appointed in 1892, was St. Paul’s first Black policeman.


In 1897, Adams bought the Western Appeal from Parker and droped the word, Western. As it happens, Adams was very militant and an outspoken Republican who was ever diligent against what he saw as racist barbs of he democratic-leaning St. Paul Pioneer newspaper. He was able to not only raise the social consciousness of Black readers, but alerted them to any transgressions against Black citizens in St. Paul.

At its peak in the 1880s, the Appeal was published in Dallas, TX, Washington, DC, St. Louis, MO, Louisville, KY, Chicago, IL and Minneapolis – in addition to St. Paul.

While many Black newspapers would follow the Appeal over the over years, it was the effort of these men, and the incredible affect that this newspaper had on St. Paul politics, that helped increase job opportunities for Blacks who lived in the Rodno — and the greater St. Paul community.

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