Sunday Chicago Bee

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Title: Sunday Chicago Bee IIIF collection link
City: Chicago, Ill.
County: Cook
Available online: 1 May 1938 - 20 October 1946 (12 issues)

The Chicago Bee or the Sunday Chicago Bee was a weekly paper that ran from 1925 to about 1947 and was established by African American business magnate, Anthony Overton. Overton graduated from law school in Topeka, Kansas and was a judge there in the late 1880s. While beginning in law, Overton later moved on to found several businesses, including the very successful Black cosmetic company, the Overton Hygienic Manufacturing Company. The company was founded in 1898 in Kansas City, Missouri, but was moved to Chicago in 1911. Overton, continuing to expand his business ventures in Chicago, also founded the Douglas Bank and the Victory Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Overton, often treated as representative of the entrepreneurial spirit that drove the development of Chicago's South Side in the early twentieth century, was awarded the 1927 Harmon Award, and the NAACP Spingarn medal in 1929, dedicated to the "individual who contributed most to the economic progress of the Negro" (Ralph Nelson Davis, "The Negro Newspaper in Chicago, M.A. thesis, University of Chicago, 1939, 128). Noted as distinctive insofar as it reflected the growing involvement of African American businessmen in newspaper publishing, the Bee was founded primarily to promote Overton's line of cosmetics. At its height, the paper had a circulation of 50,000 (St. Clair Drake and Horace Cayton, Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City, New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1945, 531). Prior to starting the Bee, Overton began the monthly, Half Century Magazine in 1915.

Juliet Walker describes the Bee as having catered to the interests of Black middle-class, conservatives. Accordingly, its content was meant to portray "respectability" and "refinement" (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, 34). The paper's editorial aims included "the suppression of superstition; higher education for all groups; cordial relations between races; civic and racial improvement and development; the promotion of Negro business; good, wholesome and authentic news;" and the winning of "peace for Democracy" (Lewis H. Fenderson, "Development of the Negro Press, 1827-1848," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, 1948, 74). Walker suggests that the Bee's survival of the Great Depression and failure during the early post-World War II years may have "reflected the changing concerns, interests, and status of Chicago's black population" (Walker 34).

Following the 1928 departure of Victor Gray, the Bee's first editor, for the next twenty years the Bee ran under the editorship of Olive Myrl Diggs and was staffed entirely by women. Diggs held a business degree from the University of Illinois and previously worked at Overton's bank. The paper and Overton are recognized as having "advanced the Illinois black press" in its promotion of "female journalism." The Bee's staff served as inspiration for many young Black women to enter the field of journalism, and the paper provided training for many of them (Walker 34).

The description of Chicago's South Side neighborhood now referred to as "Bronzeville" was first used in 1930 in the Bee when promoting its sponsorship of the "Mayor of Bronzeville" contest, later sponsored by the Chicago Defender [LCCN: sn 84037018]. The nickname was coined by James J. Gentry, an editor working with Overton, as an alternative to names used in other media outlets like "Black Ghetto" and "Black Belt." "Bronzeville" designated the area's significant concentration of Black businesses and culture. According to Dempsey J. Travis, Gentry suggested the term "since it more accurately described the skin tone of most of its inhabitants" (Travis, "Bronzeville," Encyclopedia of Chicago).