The Louisiana Weekly Celebrates 92nd Anniversary

The Louisiana Weekly Celebrates 92nd Anniversary

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Last week, The Louisiana Weekly, one of the longest-running and most widely read publications owned and operated by people of color in the Deep South, officially began its 93rd year of existence.

For more than nine decades, The Louisiana Weekly has fulfilled its mission as a tool for the enlightenment, ennoblement and empowerment of people of color in the U.S. and around the world. Migrations of south Louisianians to the North and West, displacement by Hurricane Katrina and increased use by communities of color of the Internet have dramatically increased the publication’s national readership. The Louisiana Weekly also has a global clientele, with subscribers as far away as London, Japan and South Africa.

But despite the publication’s growth and evolution, The Louisiana Weekly remains true to its historic mission as an advocate for justice, democracy and equal protection under the law.

Founded by Black businessmen Orlando Capitola Ward Taylor and Constant C. Dejoie Sr. in 1925, The Weekly began during an era of widespread lynchings, domestic terrorism, rigid segregation and blatant racial antipathy. With very few media organizations giving a voice to the oppressed Black masses in the Deep South, The Louisiana Weekly has held to its historic mission of advocating for justice, civil rights, constitutional rights and voting rights of people of color and other disenfranchised groups.

O.C.W. Taylor was a former public school teacher in New Orleans and C.C. Dejoie was president of the Unity Industrial Life Insurance Company when The Weekly was established. Its original headquarters were located at 303 Pythian Temple Building. Dejoie used his business, networking and organizational skills to kick-start the publication, recruiting insurance agents to sell newspaper subscriptions and issues of the publication, and utilizing their clients and associates in the community to gather information and issues of importance to the Black community.

The first two issues of the newspaper were printed under the original name of the publication, The New Orleans Herald. The inaugural issue, published on September 19, 1925, chronicled the life of educator and singer Professor John Wesley Work.

The October 10 issue was the first that ran under the name The Louisiana Weekly. The initial cost for an annual subscription rate of $2. Six-month, one-month and single-issue rates were available at $1.25, 20 cents, and five cents, respectively.

On The Louisiana Weekly’s pages, which are currently being stored and preserved for future generations by the Amistad Research Center currently located on the Tulane University campus, one can find the history and strivings of people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere, United States and southern Louisiana.

Since its founding in 1925, The Louisiana Weekly has covered every major movement for justice, freedom and inclusion in Black America from the integration of the U.S. Armed Forces, Montgomery Bus Boycott, Historic Civil Rights Movement, March on Washington, Black Power Movement and the Million Man March. It has also featured the writings of visionary leaders like W.E.B. DuBois, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., Malcolm X, and chronicled important stories like Hurricane Katrina, the migration of southern Blacks to other parts of the U.S., the birth of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in New Orleans, the murder of Emmett Till, Brown v. The Board of Education, the assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., the freedom struggle in South Africa, the anti-apartheid movement in the U.S., the burning of Black churches across the South in the 1990s, the historic election of South African President Nelson Mandela, the bombing of the World Trade Center, and the election and re-election of President Barack Obama.

The Louisiana Weekly also played a more intimate role in the lives of its mostly Black readership, publishing stories about the births, graduations, accomplishments, and weddings that took place in Black New Orleans but were routinely ignored for much of the 20th century by mainstream media.

In The Louisiana Weekly, readers found stories about the struggles of Black people in rural parts of the state of Louisiana, local efforts to integrate Woolworth’s and McCrory’s department stores on Canal Street and articles about important civil rights heroes like the Rev. Skip Alexander, the Rev. A.L. Davis, Ruby Bridges, Oretha Castle Haley, Freedom Rider Jerome Smith and the Rev. Avery C. Alexander.

As the leading Black newspaper in what has often been called “the most African city in America,” The Louisiana Weekly has taken seriously its responsibility to chronicle the struggle, accomplishments, strivings, tenacity, creativity and ingenuity of Black America.

After C.C. Dejoie Sr. passed away in 1970, his eldest son, C.C. Dejoie Jr., was elected to serve as The Louisiana Weekly’s publisher. A position he held until his death in the 1990s. Henry B. Dejoie Sr., the youngest of C.C. Dejoie Sr.’s three children, then took over the running of the publication.

“In this age of claims of post-racial politics and Tea Party tactics, we still see efforts to turn back the clock every day,” Renette Dejoie Hall, who now serves as publisher, said in a recent interview. “We see efforts by some groups to weaken the effects of Brown v. The Board of Education, the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. We also see incidents like those involving Michael Brown in Ferguson, La., Ezell Ford in Los Angeles, Trayvon Martin in Florida and Wendell Allen, Justin Sipp, Adolph Grimes III, Henry Glover, Ronald Madison and James Brissette in New Orleans.”

Dejoie-Hall, who is president-elect of the Louisiana Press Association, said that recent events like the mishandling of the 2016 presidential election, efforts to do away with “ObamaCare,” the disintegration of laws protecting immigrants, unconstitutional policing, economic injustice at the local, state and national level and the rise of the Alt-Right underscore the need for historically Black publications that spread the truth and are “unsought and unbossed” by the larger society.

“The nation is in the midst of a major backlash by some segments of the larger society against people of color, immigrants, non-Christians, justice advocates and anyone who stands up for democracy, fairness and equity,” Dejoie-Hall said Tuesday. “In the courts, in the schools, and in our dealings with law enforcement officers, we see a concerted effort to turn back the clock to the dark days when Black and Brown folks had no constitutional rights that whites were bound by law to respect and to take away every constitutional right our forebears organized, marched, advocated, fought, bled and died for.

“As long as we see racial injustice, economic exploitation, public corruption, unconstitutional policing and other practices and policies that violate the human and constitutional rights of men, women and children. We will continue to fight the good fight.”