Primary Resource

"The Press in Trouble" from the Roanoke Times (May 24, 1891)

In this article from the May 24, 1891 issue, the Roanoke Times describes the troubles encountered by the Roanoke Weekly Press, Roanoke's first black newspaper, when a correspondent criticized and ridiculed the area's colored pastors. (A more lengthy discussion of the problem is published five days later.) The article also mentions that the paper had attracted white advertisers, an remarkable feat given the strained racial climate of the day.

Transcription from Original

Colored Ministers Not Pleased With the Ballyhack Correspondent

The Roanoke Press is a weekly journal published at Davis' hall, in this city, by John H. Davis and T. T. Henry. It sprang into existence fully-fledged, ready for the fight, and set itself up as the organ of the colored people.

It was getting along pretty well, and was liberally patronized by some of the white people in the way of advertising. It allowed a bombastic correspondent to sail into the colored theological fraternity.

The consequence is that steps are being taken to call an indignation meeting and protest against the abuses of this journal.

The trouble seems to have grown out of the ravings of "Eye Opener," the Ballyhack correspondent, who assailed the colored pulpit of this city, making fun of the gesticulation of the pastors, and usually winding up with a cornfield song about having a sword in his hand, insinuating that things needed a general cleaning out.

Rev. R. R. Jones and the other colored pastors went to the sanctum and demanded the name of the Ballahack writer. The information was refused. That settled the Press. Notices have been sent down the Valley and out through Southwest Virginia calling upon the pastors to denounce such conduct from the pulpit. It was a slur on those who were laboring for the salvation of souls, and blasphemous to the word of God.

An indignation meeting will be held in a few days. A. J. Oliver, the colored lawyer, will act as counsel for the pastors and prosecute the case.

It is not likely that the Press will be denounced from the colored pulpits of this city to-day. The matter may be held off until after the meeting, however, but the pastors are very indignant over the attack and may turn loose on the journal at any time.