Minnesota’s oldest Black-owned newspaper puts archive online

Published 7:05 am Tuesday, June 1, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, which has documented life in the Twin Cities’ Black community for more than 85 years, is in the process of putting its archives dating back to 1934 online at the Minnesota Historical Society’s digital newspaper hub.

The change means stories published by the state’s oldest Black-owned newspaper can be found with the click of a button, instead of digging through stacks of old newspapers.

Tracey Williams-Dillard, owner and publisher of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, told Minnesota Public Radio News that the archive system had been archaic. “You’d be back there digging through old papers forever,” she said.

“With it being digitized, now you can put a name in and all the articles that have that name, and it will pop up now,” she said. “This is super cool.”

Almost 11,000 pages of the Minneapolis Spokesman, one of the forerunners of the Spokesman-Recorder, are now on the hub, said Anne Levin, the digital newspapers manager at the Minnesota Historical Society. Issues of the St. Paul Recorder, Twin-City Herald and Timely Digest have also been added, with more issues expected in coming months.

The project is part of an effort to digitize newspaper archives through the National Endowment for the Humanities. Federal funding through the historical society has helped digitize more than 100 Minnesota newspaper archives.

Williams-Dillard, whose grandfather Cecil E. Newman founded the Spokesman along with the St. Paul Recorder, the Twin-City Herald and the Timely Digest, said this is something she had wanted to do, but it had been unaffordable. She said readers now have easier access to history.

“It means a lot to people that are either historians or care about the Black history of our paper,” she said.