This post was originally published on St. Louis American
By Donald M. Suggs
In nearly every respect, the landscape of our region and indeed the country is quite different than it was 95 years ago. The separate and unequal existence perpetuated by institutional racism was a harsh reality for many citizens. Their plight fell mostly upon deaf ears among the complicit mainstream press. A group of frustrated businessmen and civic leaders pooled their resources to establish an outlet that expressed the myriad of concerns faced by the Black St. Louis community.
And though much has changed, several of the issues raised in the inaugural edition of The St. Louis American – which hit newsstands on March 17, 1928 – remain obstacles standing between St. Louis and its rightful place as a top-tier city. As we celebrate our 95th consecutive year of publication, The St. Louis American continues to work towards preserving our relevance and impact in the continuously changing terrain of media. We also remain committed to honoring the intention of the originators and institutional mainstays – and are eternally grateful for the unwavering, generational support.
The St. Louis American was founded in 1928 by Judge Nathan B. Young and several prominent African American entrepreneurs and community leaders – including the legendary Homer G. Phillips. With humble, but idealistic beginnings, The St. Louis American launched as an eight-page tabloid with a circulation of just over 2,000. The next year, Nathaniel Sweets joined The St. Louis American as an owner and as publisher. His devotion helped solidify the paper as a beloved St. Louis cultural treasure and a leading voice for the Black community. “The St. Louis American should carry news tailored to the African American community and anybody who wants to know about it,” Sweets was quoted as saying. He served as publisher of The St. Louis American for more than 45 years.
Throughout the 1940s, ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, The St. Louis American continued to gain respect and readership, through its venerable editor Bennie G. Rodgers. Thanks in no small part to his 50-plus year tenure with The St. Louis American, Rodgers is still referred to as the “dean of Black journalism in St. Louis.”
Over the decades, The St. Louis American became a trusted source for the Black community as it reported on issues ranging from breaking news and politics to religion, business, education, sports, and entertainment. The St. Louis American also earned a sense of ownership from the community thanks to a “for us, by us” editorial model.
As we settle into the second decade of the 21st Century, there are many wins to celebrate. Among them is The St. Louis American’s evolution from an eight-page tabloid print product with an impact of 2,000, to a multi-media brand that reaches more than 300,000 in print and via our digital and social media platforms. We want to thank our loyal print and digital readers, our rapidly growing online audience and especially our advertisers – who have helped keep our print product and digital services completely free to the public.
Our St. Louis American team deserves much of the credit for our successes. These dedicated individuals aspire to bring a high-quality product to the market on a daily basis and produce events that promote the best our region has to offer – and they do so with collegiality and mutual respect. We take pride in the fact that nearly half of our organization has spent more than 20 years of their professional lives as part of The St. Louis American family, a distinction shared by very few media outlets. We are deeply grateful to them and all of our team members – past and present – for their hard work, professionalism, steadfastness and commitment to our mission of service to the community.
We want to continue to provide value to and relevance for our print readers, online audience, social media followers, advertisers and attendees at our recognition events. And like our founders, we will remain steadfast in using our platform to help foster equity and inclusion– which is still a work in progress for the St. Louis area nearly a century after Judge Young, Homer G. Phillips and company united through journalism to shed light on the necessity for change.
We would like to again express our gratitude to those who have supported The St. Louis American from then until now – it would be impossible to continue this work without your support.
The St. Louis American also looks forward to connecting and engaging with new audiences on our growing digital platforms enabled by innovative technology. This transformation will extend the legacy of the brand and its mission for generations to come.
See The St. Louis American’s 95th Anniversary Special section.
Donald M. Suggs has been the publisher of The St. Louis American since 1984.