WESTerday Trivia Answer: The Mississippi Free Press

John R. Lynch Street office of the Mississippi Free Press (Photo: Sovereignty Commission Files/MDAH)

The answer to this week’s trivia question is (D.) The Mississippi Free Press. This publication had an office on Lynch Street on the first floor of the Masonic Temple (M.W. Stringer Grand Lodge). Oh, and the current newspaper whose namesake pays homage to the Mississippi Free Press…that would be the Jackson Free Press of course!

The following information is verbatim from The University of Southern Mississippi’s McCain Library & Archives:

The Mississippi Free Press was an alternative newspaper published in Jackson, Mississippi, during the Civil Rights Era under the copyright of Hico Publishing (1072 Lynch Street, Jackson, MS). Hico Publishing’s application for incorporation (dated September 30, 1961) lists the main incorporators as William L. Higgs and Reverend Robert L. T. Smith. Higgs was a young, white attorney from Jackson. Smith, an African American minister, had recently qualified as a candidate in the congressional race against Congressman John Bell Williams. At that time, Hico Publishing boasted a board of officers entirely comprised of African Americans: Reverend Robert L. T. Smith- president, Cornelius Turner – vice president, W. J. Thompson – secretary, and Dr. A. Benjamin Britton – treasurer. During its lifetime, the Mississippi Free Press had five editors: Charlie Butts, Aaron Henry, Henry J. Kirksey, Lucy Komisar, and Paul E. Brooks.

The Mississippi Free Press was published weekly during the years 1961- 1973. State residents paid $3 for a yearly subscription, and out- of- state subscribers paid $4. In the early 1960s, it boasted an average circulation of 2,000. While much of the paper’s writing and organization occurred in the back of a supermarket in Jackson, Mrs. Hazel Brannon Smith first printed the Mississippi Free Press on her printing press in Lexington, Mississippi, and received threats from the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission in return. There were many other instances of, “police interference with the distribution of the journal and surveillance of the staff [of the Mississippi Free Press] by the Sovereignty Commission,” (Thompson 74). The printing of the paper was later moved to Memphis, Tennessee.

While the paper’s audience was primarily African American, the Mississippi Free Press claimed it was for all Americans who believed in, “freedom of speech, worship, movement, and freedom from intimidation,” (Mississippi Free Press dated 16 Dec. 1961, p.1). The paper’s aim was to, “secure these freedoms for those Mississippians who have been denied them,” (p.1). The first editor, Butts, sold his first subscriptions to northern whites who were interested in racial clashes in Mississippi. He asked them to donate money to pay for the subscriptions of poor African Americans in Mississippi. The advertisements in the Mississippi Free Pressrepresented the support of African American owned businesses in the Jackson area.

Sources: (Lucy Komisar)

Altman, Julie. Interview with Lucy Komisar, 16 October 1991, photocopy of transcript, Tully – Crenshaw Feminist Oral History Project, Radcliffe College.

Sources: (History of the Mississippi Free Press)

“A Newspaper Is Born.” Mississippi Free Press. 16 December 1961, 1.

Mississippi Department of Archives and History. “Sovereignty Commission Online.”http://mdah.state.ms.us/arlib/contents/er/index.html. accessed September 1, 2004.

Thompson, Julius E. The Black Press in Mississippi 1865 – 1985. Gainsville: University Press of Florida, 1993. 62, 64, 73-74, 76-77.

John R. Lynch Street office of the Mississippi Free Press (Photo: Sovereignty Commission Files/MDAH)

About Jackson State University, Center for University-Based Development (933 Articles)
We blog about things that are absolutely, positively West Jackson (Mississippi).

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  1. WESTerday Trivia Answer: The M.W. Stringer Grand Lodge (Masonic Temple) | West Jackson

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