The Forum

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Title: The Forum
City: Springfield, Ill.
County: Sangamon
Available online: 3 February 1906 - 30 June 1917 (395 issues)

The Forum was a weekly paper founded in Springfield, Illinois, the state's capitol, that ran from 1904 to 1927. While published in Springfield for the majority of its run, the Forum was published only in Peoria between August 15, 1914 to July 1, 1916, then in both cities after August 15, 1914. Prior to 1917, the paper was published with Elmer Lee Rogers (1877-1957) as editor and manager. Born in December of 1877 in Oxford, Mississippi, Rogers was the son of Willis and Nancy Rogers. Before coming to Springfield, Rogers served as editor from 1898 to 1899 for the Oxford newspaper, the Enterprise. Rogers was also the founder and editor of another weekly newspaper published in Springfield, the Illinois Conservator (1905-1950) [LCCN: sn93059304].

Advertisements in 1907 issues of the paper claimed "THE FORUM Is now the Leading Colored Paper in the City, Has the largest and best circulation" and is "Read by Both Races." Another ad touts its circulation as the "largest and best, bona fide circulation of any colored paper in the State excepting Chicago." News coverage included local news, such as deaths, illnesses, weddings, theater performances, and church and society news, as well as railway timetables. The paper also featured poetry and updates on meetings of local social and cultural organizations, including the Springfield Woman's Club. The paper provided news from surrounding cities in central Illinois—e.g., Decatur, Peoria, Bloomington, and Champaign—as well as national news coverage, especially race relations news.

The September 5, 1908 issue of the Forum, included coverage of the Springfield Riots of 1908, which began on August 14th and which some historians treat as propelling the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909. Scholars attribute the riot to rising racial tensions in Springfield with the early growth of the city's African American population following the Civil War, thought to increase competition for limited employment opportunities. Issues from 1916-1917 include articles on the beginnings of the period known as the "Great Migration," with a headline in the March 10, 1917 issue announcing "Tens of Thousands of Colored People Preparing to Leave the South in May"; and, in the May 12, 1917 issue, "NEGRO LABOR EXODUS CAUSES CRISIS IN SOUTH."

After the February 10, 1917 issue, activist Zedekiah ("Z.W.") Mitchell (1867-1930) was named editor. Mitchell established the "Colored Social Center" in Springfield in 1918, providing inspiration for the founding of the Douglass Community Center, which "offered civic, social and educational opportunities to African-American residents of Springfield when most similar organizations were closed" to African Americans ("Douglass Community Center," SangamonLink, https://sangamoncountyhistory.org/wp/?p=10367 ).

Mitchell was also founder of the Loyal Legion Co-operative Educational Program, a program dedicated to educating both white and Black Americans about the importance of working together towards community improvement and "the uplift of the colored people of the city" (June 16, 1917). The February 10th issue contains an announcement of the change in editorship and the paper's new status as the official organ of the Loyal Legion Co-operative Educational Movement.

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