Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"Howling Loudly Until the American People Hear Our Cries"

In the July/August issue of Humanities, a look back at the career of crusading editor John Mitchell, Jr., of the Richmond Planet. Says author Donna M. Lucey in part,

The young crusader fought against the lynching of both African Americans and whites (though blacks far outnumbered whites as victims of that crime), and he protested against unjust sentences that were being meted out to black prisoners. Mitchell quickly made a name for himself with his daring deeds and became known as the “Fighting Negro Editor” who would gladly “walk into the jaws of death to serve his race.” It was his job, he said, “to howl, yes howl loudly, until the American people hear our cries.”


Mitchell’s life is an uplifting tale of triumph in the face of racial hatred, an astounding story of passion, talent, and endurance. So, why is he so little known? Beyond a wonderful biography by Ann Field Alexander, entitled Race Man: The Rise and Fall of the “Fighting Editor,” John Mitchell, Jr., published in 2002, which this article draws upon, not much has been written about his dramatic life. In Richmond—a city full of monuments and markers—his legacy was almost completely ignored until recent times. Fortunately, many of his newspapers survive, and they are currently being digitized thanks to the National Digital Newspaper Program, which is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and cosponsored by the Library of Congress.

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