Pine Bluff Weekly Herald

Established in 1900 by Jesse Chisholm (J. C.) Duke, the Pine Bluff Weekly Herald was an African-American newspaper published in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). During its short run, the Herald published on Saturdays and featured local, state, national, and international news, as well as entertainment and advertising.

To date, no records have surfaced to document how long the paper circulated, and only one issue, published on January 27, 1900, has been archived. However, some information is available about editor J. C. Duke. Born a slave in Alabama in 1853, Duke began his career in the newspaper business by serving as editor of the Montgomery Herald until he was chased out of the state because of his bold and controversial editorial policy. He often used his influence to assist civil rights activist Ida B. Wells in her anti-lynching campaigns.

Duke eventually settled in Pine Bluff, and when a second newspaper established by African Americans called the Republican changed its name to the Hornet, Duke was tapped as its editor. He held this position until the paper suspended operations in 1885. In 1889, Duke became editor and publisher of another black newspaper in Pine Bluff called the Echo. Described as “an organ of the Negro race,” the Echo also was published on Saturdays. Annual subscriptions were $1.50 for the four-page publication that measured 18″ x 24.”

A Republican Party paper, the Herald posted the following statement in the first column, near the top on the second page of the January 27, 1900, issue: “There was, perhaps, never a time in the history of the republican party when the leaders were more united than now.” The issue also indicates that the paper ran the religious column called “The Sunday School,” a satirical section titled “Funny Folks,” and the “The Market Report,” a column describing the financial statuses of major commodities such as livestock and cotton.

Annual subscriptions for the Herald sold for $1.50, and although some records indicate that the Herald was an eight-page publication, the one archived issue has only four pages. As is the case with most newspapers published during the era, no gutter space exists between the seven columns of the 17″ x 24″ broadsheet-style periodical. Still, tightly packed on each page is information that includes murders, accidental fires, job promotions, and even an announcement about inventor Thomas Edison erecting a new plant near Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he intended to experiment with his newest invention designed to extract gold from low-grade gravel and placer dirt.

The Herald was published by the Herald Publishing Company, whose roster included Rev. L. J. Hayward as president, Rev. J. B. Balden as vice president; the Honorable M. W. Webb as treasurer, Rev. S. A. Mosely and Rev. J. C. Battle as business managers, J. F. Jones, Esq. and the Honorable S. W. Dawson as associate editors, and Professor S. H. Patton as general agent.

Inserted toward the bottom of the fourth column on the second page is a brief announcement of a stockholders’ meeting for the publishing company to be held at the Herald office, at which “business of importance” was to be transacted. The short column concludes with Hayward’s and Dawson’s names and position titles listed.

Duke died on January 23, 1916, in Chicago, Illinois, at the age of sixty-three and was buried in Pine Bluff on January 27, 1916.

For additional information:
Allsopp, Fred A. History of the Arkansas Press for a Hundred Years and More. Little Rock, AR: Parke-Harper Publishing Company, 1922.

Cunningham, Jimmy, Jr., and Donna Cunningham. African Americans of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2013.

“Men of the Month.” The Crisis, April 1916, p. 290.

N.W. Ayer & Son’s Newspaper Annual. Philadelphia: Ayer Directory of Publications, 1906.

N.W. Ayer & Son’s Newspaper Annual Directory of Publications. Philadelphia: Ayer Directory of Publications, 1908.

Pine Bluff Weekly Herald. (Pine Bluff, Ark.), Vol. 1, No. 3, Ed. 1 Saturday, January 27, 1900. Online at http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth523677/ (accessed February 12, 2019).

Lillie M. Fears
Arkansas State University

Last Updated: 04/26/2019