Benjamin D. Bagby and Company began publishing what is purported to be the first Black Indianapolis newspaper in August 1879. The four-page weekly was distributed on Saturdays and cost five cents per issue, or about two dollars per year. The Leader‘s motto was “An Equal Chance and Fair Play.”

The front page of an 1882 newpaper.
Indianapolis Leader, Volume 3, Number 46, Indianapolis, Marion County, 24 June 1882 Credit: Hoosier State Chronicles View Source

The weekly supported the Republican Party and Frederick Douglass’ philosophy of the self-made man. The paper was active in the politics of the day reported on events at the 1880 Republican convention and presented petitions to the governor of Indiana. The journal also carried national and local news of the previous week, church information, society news, meeting dates of various clubs, and announcements about special events.

The Leader gave its readers biographical sketches of famous Americans, articles and stories about African American success in America, philosophical anecdotes, and Sunday school lessons. The “Leader Thinks” column commented on current political and social happenings. The paper dedicated a special column to activities in the Cincinnati area.

In 1882, the paper published a debate between Frederick Douglass and a Dr. Blyden on whether Africa or America would be the best place for the advancement of African Americans. Benjamin D. Bagby sold the newspaper to A. J. and L. H. Johnson in 1886, who in turn sold the paper to John Medert in 1889. Medert hired T. J. Sharp to serve as editor until the Leader ceased publication around 1890.

Revised February 2021

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