The New York Amsterdam News was started more than a century ago, with a $10 investment. It has gone on to become one of the most important Black newspapers in the country and today remains one of the most influential Black-owned and -operated media businesses in the nation, if not the world. On Dec. 4, 1909, James H. Anderson put out the first edition of the Amsterdam News with six sheets of paper, a lead pencil, a dressmaker’s table and that $10 investment. The Amsterdam News was one of only 50 Black newspapers in the country at that time. Copies were sold for two-cents a piece from his home at 132 W. 65th St. in Manhattan. The paper was named after the avenue where Anderson lived in New York’s San Juan Hill section of Manhattan.
By 1910, as Blacks began the Great Exodus from the South, moving into big cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and New York’s Village of Harlem, so grew the success of the Amsterdam News, so much so that An- derson soon moved the paper uptown to 17 W. 135th St. Still growing, the AmNews moved again in 1916 to 2293 Seventh Ave. The next move came in 1938 to 2271 Seventh Avenue until, in the early 1940s, it relocated to its present address at 2340 Frederick Douglass Blvd. in Harlem. In 1926, publisher Edward Warren’s wife, Sadie, purchased the paper. It struggled for survival until 1935, when it was bought by two of the nation’s foremost Black entrepreneurs, Dr. Cielan Bethan Powell and Dr. Phillip M.H. Savory of the Powell Savory Corporation. Powell assumed the role of publisher. During Powell’s tenure, the Amsterdam News expanded its reach, reporting not only on local stories that were important to the Black community, but national news stories as well. The AmNews reported on the fight for equality during the Jim Crow era, the events of the Civil Rights Movement, the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Freedom Riders, among other stories, making it by far the most influential and most frequently-cited Black weekly in the country.
The Amsterdam News was one of the first publications to focus its attention on Malcolm X and began publishing his column, “God’s Angry Man.” A host of the most influential Black leaders in the nation who have appeared in the Amsterdam News include scholar W.E.B. DuBois, activist Roy Wilkins, Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, NAACP President Ben Jealous and Rep. Charles Rangel. In 1963, the New York Times credited the Amsterdam News with inspiring a crackdown on the drug and crime epidemics that gripped Harlem, saying, “The Amsterdam News has always had a great deal of persuasive power in Harlem and other Black communities.”
On May 1, 1971, Powell announced his retirement and sold the paper to the Amnews Corporation, which currently retains ownership. In August of 1982, Wilbert A. Tatum, who was chairman of the board of the Amews Corporation and publisher, broadened its reach still further by extending the editorial perspective into international affairs. This wider scope resulted in increased interest and readership within local, national and international communities. In July 1996, Tatum gained complete ownership of the Amsterdam News. The future of the storied publication was now solely in the hands of the Tatum family. A year later, Tatum stepped down, handing the reigns of publisher and editor-in-chief to his then-26-year-old daughter, Elinor Ruth Tatum, who retains those positions to date.
Wilbert Tatum died on Feb. 26, 2009.
The Amsterdam News has enjoyed significant accomplishments. In October of 1930, it became the second Black newspaper to be admitted to the Audit Bureau of Circulation. In 1936, it became the first and remains the only Black newspaper to be unionized in all departments by the Newspaper Guild of New York Local 3. While the Amsterdam News is “The New Black View,” it remains keenly aware and respectful of the fact that it serves an increasingly multi-racial and multi-ethnic community in New York and beyond. Today, the New York Amsterdam News remains the voice of one of the largest and most influential Black communities in the country and the world.