The Chicago Illinois Idea

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Title: The Chicago Illinois Idea IIIF collection link
City: Chicago, Ill.
County: Cook
Available online: 28 October 1916 - 28 October 1916 (1 issues)

The Chicago Illinois Idea was a weekly paper believed to have run from 1903 to 1922. Its founding editor and publisher Sheadrick Bond Turner (1869-1927) was an attorney and active member of the Illinois Republican Party. Elected to multiple terms with the Illinois House of Representatives, Turner was also a founding member of the Colored Press Association of Chicago (also known as the Press Bureau of Chicago), established in 1912.

Turner was born July 12, 1869 in West Feliciana, Louisiana. According to Garland Penn, before entering publishing and politics Turner worked various jobs, including as an apprentice in a confectionary shop and as a baker (Penn, The Afro American Press and Its Editors, New York: Arno Press, 1969, reprint from 1891 ed., 256). In Chicago, while attending business college, Turner managed a wood and coal yard and worked in the office of Secretary of State Henry Dodge Dement. Prior to Chicago, Turner lived in Springfield, Illinois from 1885 to around 1890, where he founded his first newspaper, the Republican Springfield State Capital (1886-1915) [LCCN: sn84025827], which circulated widely through central, southern, and western Illinois.

The October 28, 1916 issue of the Illinois Idea is the only surviving issue on record. As discussed by scholar Ralph Nelson Davis, an unnamed associate and partner of Turner stated in an interview that the paper "was the political organ controlled by Turner and was used to promote his political interests and the political interest of the Republican party among Negroes" (Davis, "The Negro Newspaper in Chicago, M.A. thesis, University of Chicago, 1939, 42-3). Described as rival to the Democratic Broad-Ax (1895-1935) [LCCN: sn84024055], the paper's Republican leanings are apparent in the 1916 issue given the prevalence of advertisements for Republican political candidates, the inclusion of "Campaign Notes from Republican National Headquarters," as well as several articles dedicated to critical social commentary on the actions of current U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and their representation of the Democratic party. Besides political coverage, the Illinois Idea published other contents of interest to its audience, including local (Chicago) news related to churches, deaths, illness, and travel; "race problem news"; and national and international news.

According to scholar Juliet Walker, Turner "subscribed to Booker T. Washington's ideology of self-help" (Walker, "The Promised Land: The Chicago Defender and the Black Press in Illinois: 1862-1970," in The Black Press in the Middle West, 1865-1985, ed. by Henry Lewis Suggs, Greenwood Press, 1996, 14). Turner wrote that: "[w]hen the negro in America begins business for himself, and accumulates wealth and intelligence, the race problem then will be solved. Business must be first and politics last" (Penn 258). His associate describes revenue from ad sales to politicians, stating that "[b]ecause of Turner's political affiliation, he was in position to obtain some good paying advertisements from white political associates in return for political favors that he did for them." The associate also reports that subscription holders included white politicians, and that newsstands and churches were important centers of distribution.

Turner's unnamed partner reveals how Turner's active involvement in politics left little time for editorial work, with Turner's wife doing "a good part of the work connected with the editing of the paper." The 1916 issue of the Illinois Idea lists Mrs. S.B. Turner as the paper's editor and publisher.