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Friday, May 20, 2011

New Negro Opinion Newspaper

Anacostia Community Museum Archives holdings include a small collection of historical newspapers amongst them is the New Negro Opinion.  This Washington, D.C., weekly publication sought to educate the community about injustices in employment and fight for the rights of African American citizens.  Its founding was sparked by an incident at a neighborhood store. 

On August 28, 1933 the manager of the Hamburger Grill on U Street in the District of Columbia, fired his all-black staff and replaced them with whites.  Black customers, led by Washingtonian  John Aubrey Davis, maintained a boycott and picketed until the manager relented and brought the Black workers back–with an increase in pay and a reduction in hours.   The success of this action spurred the creation of an ongoing organization–The New Negro Alliance.
New Negro Opinion, October 13, 1943  

The New Negro Alliance was established in 1933 to protest discrimination in employment practices in stores doing business in black neighborhoods.  The organization’s tactics were unique. The Alliance conducted survey research in the neighborhoods surrounding a retail store that excluded black employees.  They then determined the statistical percentage of African Americans among the store’s regular consumers,  presented the statistical information to the store managers, and requested that hiring policies be changed to hire the same percentage of black employees as there were customers.  If the store refused, the Alliance would begin a community education campaign, distributing literature that explained their demands.   Finally, if the store still refused to meet their demands they would organize a picket line and a boycott of the store by all those who supported an end to the exclusion of black employees. 

After the Hamburger Grill, their campaigns targeted the A& P grocery stores, the High Ice Cream Company, Peoples Drug Store, Kaufman’s Department Store, and finally, the Sanitary Grocery Company (later Safeway grocery stores)—which led them all the way to the Supreme Court.   Mary Church Terrell, Mary McLeod Bethune, and many other prominent black Washingtonians joined the picket lines.  Walter E. Washington, later the first Black mayor of the city, Eugene Davidson (later head of the D.C. NAACP), William Hastie (later governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands), Howard University professor N. Naylor Fitzhugh, John Aubrey Davis, attorney Belford V. Lawson, Jr., M. Franklin Thorne (later manager of Langston Terrace housing project), R. Grayson McGuire (owner of the McGuire family funeral homes), and Robert C. Weaver were among the leaders of the New Negro Alliance. Operating largely out of the offices of Belford V. Lawson at 1232 U Street, the Alliance published, the New Negro Opinion, between 1933 and 1937.  Until 1934, M. Franklin Thorne served as editor and William Hastie, as associate editor.  After a number of significant successes, Alliance activities ended around 1941.

To learn more about African American newspapers check here.

Portia James
Senior Historian
Anacostia Community Museum


  1. How are the newspapers stored? The archives department I work for has numerous newspaper clippings in acid-free folders, however should these clippings also be placed in protective plastic sleeves?

    Mus(eum)ings: Musings from a Museum Intern

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  3. Due to the size of the New Negro Opinion (17 ½ x 12), acid-free paper is interleaved between each newspaper and the collection is housed in an appropriate sized acid-free flat box in chronological order. One can also create inserts from buffered card to modify the inside of the box to accommodate the newspaper size. We do have several collections containing newspaper clippings which are stored in acid-free folders but not plastic sleeves. Depending on the age and condition of the clippings, the processing archivist will photocopy newspapers articles using permanent paper. To Learn more about Preservation photocopying view the following site:

    On June 9th, several Smithsonian archivists are participating in Ask Archivists Day on Twitter you will have an opportunity to find out how other Smithsonian Arhives house clippings and ask other questions you may have.