The California Eagle was more than just a newspaper for the African American community in Los Angeles. It was a voice of advocacy, a source of information, and a platform for empowerment. For 85 years, from 1879 to 1964, the California Eagle chronicled the struggles and achievements of black Californians, and influenced the course of civil rights in the state and beyond.
The paper was founded by John J. Neimore, a former slave who migrated to Los Angeles from Texas in 1879. He saw the need for a publication that would cater to the growing number of black settlers who were seeking opportunities and challenges in the West. He named his paper The Owl, and later The Eagle, and provided practical advice on housing, employment, education, and health, as well as news stories that reflected the interests and concerns of his readers.
Neimore died in 1912, leaving his paper to Charlotta Bass, a young woman who had worked as his assistant. Bass was a visionary leader who transformed the paper into a powerful force for social change. She renamed it The California Eagle, and expanded its circulation to 60,000 by the 1920s. She also hired her husband, Joseph Bass, as the editor, and together they campaigned for racial equality and justice in Los Angeles and beyond.
The California Eagle exposed discrimination and injustice in various spheres of life, such as housing, employment, education, transportation, and entertainment. It also celebrated the achievements and contributions of black Californians in arts, culture, sports, politics, and business. It featured prominent figures such as Paul Robeson, Hattie McDaniel, Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King Jr.
The paper also supported various causes and movements that advanced the rights and dignity of black people, such as the NAACP, the Urban League, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and the UNIA. It also endorsed progressive candidates and policies that favored racial integration and equality.
Bass sold the paper in 1951 to Loren Miller, a lawyer and journalist who had been the city editor. Miller continued the paper’s tradition of activism and excellence, and became a prominent civil rights attorney who won several landmark cases against racial discrimination. He also served as a judge of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County from 1963 until his death in 1967.
Miller sold the paper in 1964 to a group of local investors who hoped to revive its fortunes. However, the paper faced stiff competition from other publications and media outlets that catered to the black community. It also suffered from financial difficulties and internal conflicts. The paper ceased publication on January 7, 1964, ending its long and illustrious history.
The California Eagle was one of the oldest and most influential black newspapers in the West. It left behind a legacy of black journalism that inspired generations of writers, activists, and leaders. It also preserved a rich record of black history and culture that is invaluable for researchers and historians. The paper’s archives are available online at archive.org/details/caleagle.