Downs-Jones Library

An Academic Library on the campus of Huston-Tillotson University.

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“We Wish Each and all a Happy, Prosperous New Year, and That Men of all Races Will Strive to Make the World Better”


Each New Year offers a valuable opportunity to consider the future and make resolutions. What if we also took a brief moment to reflect on the past? What was the New Year like 100 years ago?

All Huston-Tillotson students have access to African American Newspapers (1827-1998), a database containing digitized copies of 270 newspapers that served African American communities in 35 states. Using this database, I conducted a search for newspapers printed on 1/1/1915.   The database includes a full digital copy of the Topeka Plaindealer from Topeka, Kansas for New Year’s Day, 1915. The nameplate offered a brief New Year’s wish, but the remainder of the paper delved into more serious matters.   The issue’s cover story addressed several pressing problems of the day. The topic of segregation was on the forefront, but the article also discusses women’s rights and suffrage as well as concerns about the U.S. constitution and continued conflict between the North and South in the wake of the Civil War. The paper also includes mention of the local weather and reports on holiday parties, in addition to a variety of advertisements and obituaries.

The newspaper offers an excellent firsthand account of the everyday lives and concerns of African Americans living in Topeka, Kansas on the New Year of 1915. With this new year, I encourage you to reflect on the past to better understand from where we come. This insight from the past can provide guidance on where we are going in the future.