“Fear God, Tell the Truth, and Make Money”

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“Fear God, tell the truth and make money” was the motto of The Iowa Bystander, a newspaper established by ten black businessmen in Des Moines, Iowa in 1894. The Iowa Bystander targeted a black audience and employed black writers, unlike most Iowa newspapers at the time who would not hire black journalists. The Bystander outspokenly criticized American society, taking on several different issues such as the Ku Klux Klan, racist advertising practices, and unequal treatment of blacks in the American armed forces. Most black newspapers in the United States at this time had an average lifespan of about nine years, but the Bystander lasted more than eighty years due to its strong leadership under publishers like John Lay Thompson and J.B. Morris, making it one of the most successful black newspapers in the country. This block incorporates different clippings from the Iowa Bystander. The clippings include several ads for employment opportunities, an advertisement for a colored cafe, and an article about the Iowa State Federation Colored Women’s Club. The paper paid tribute to various women in the ranks of the club, and included beautiful portraits of many of the women involved. Through their journalism, the Bystander was able to empower and connect blacks across America. Newspapers like the Bystander played a critical role in uniting black communities and creating a space for them in white America.