‘Super cool’: oldest black-owned newspaper in Minnesota puts archives online

The Minnesota-Recorder spokesperson has documented daily life in the Black community of the Twin Cities for more than 85 years. But until recently, finding stories from this rich past meant going through piles of old newsprint.

Now this history can be found with a few clicks. The archives dating from 1934 are now online at Minnesota Historical Society Digital Journal Center.

“Over the years we’ve had a lot of phone calls about old items. Because our archive system is a bit archaic, it was not very user-friendly. You’d be back there forever rummaging through old paper, ”said Tracey Williams-Dillard, owner and publisher of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, the state’s oldest black-owned newspaper.

“With its digitization, you can now put a name and all the items that have that name on it, and it will show up now,” she said. “It’s super cool.”

Almost 11,000 pages of the Minneapolis spokesperson, one of the precursors of today’s spokesperson, is accessible through the hub, said Anne Levin, head of digital journals at the Minnesota Historical Society.

Problems of Saint-Paul recorder, Twin-City Herald and Timely Digest will also be added to the digital hub in the coming months. Currently, approximately 8,530 Recorder pages are available, covering the years 1934 through 1941. Approximately 1,800 Herald pages and over 200 Timely Digest pages are also digitized.

The project is part of an effort to digitize newspaper archives through the National Endowment for the Humanities. Issues up to 1963 are also available on the Library of Congress website, Chronicling America, while issues up to 1964 are available on the Minnesota Digital Newspaper Center.

Federal funding through the Historical Society has helped digitize more than 100 Minnesota newspaper archives.

Williams-Dillard and Levin said they hoped to continue adding archival documents from the newspaper to the digital hub.

“It’s definitely something I wanted to see happen; it was just unaffordable for me to do it, and now it’s done. said Williams-Dillard, whose grandfather, Cecil E. Newman, founded spokesperson with the St. Paul Recorder, the Twin-City Herald and the Timely Digest.

“They want to have access to this whole story,” she said of her readers, “and they hadn’t put it aside other than coming here, or going to the Minnesota Historical Society and to waddle through all their copies. And that way, they can do it right from their own desktop. So it means a lot to people who are historians or who care about the black history of our newspaper. “

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