A. J. Smitherman, whose full name was Alphonso J. Smitherman, was an influential African-American newspaper publisher and civil rights activist. He was born on January 16, 1883, in Collierville, Tennessee, and died on December 13, 1961, in Buffalo, New York. Smitherman is best known for his work as the publisher and editor of the “Afro-American Advocate” and later the “Empire Star” newspapers. He founded the “Afro-American Advocate” in Oklahoma in 1912 and moved it to Buffalo, New York, in 1915. In 1920, he changed the name of the newspaper to the “Empire Star,” which became a prominent publication for the African-American community in Buffalo and surrounding areas.
As a newspaper publisher, Smitherman used his platform to advocate for civil rights, racial equality, and social justice. He actively campaigned against racial segregation, discrimination, and lynching, and his newspaper played a vital role in mobilizing the African-American community and promoting their rights.
Smitherman’s activism and journalism often brought him into conflict with the establishment and white supremacists, leading to threats and acts of violence against him and his newspaper. Despite the challenges, he continued to fight for civil rights and used his newspaper as a tool to educate, inspire, and mobilize the African-American community.
A. J. Smitherman’s contributions to civil rights and journalism have been recognized posthumously, and he is remembered as a significant figure in the history of African-American activism and the struggle for equality in the United States.