It was founded almost 95 years ago!
William Alexander Scott II was a Morehouse graduate who got his start as the only Black clerk on the Jacksonville to Washington, D.C. rail line, Atlanta Daily World reports. A budding social-entrepreneur, Scott published a Jacksonville business directory in 1927 to help Black people find each other, later publishing another one the following year for Atlanta residents. Despite Atlanta containing some of the most influential Black institutions and people in the country, he noticed that there was very little news coverage of Black educational institutions, businesses, prominent persons, churches, or other news of significance; the exceptions being crime news and death listings. Whites lived, to a large extent, sealed off from Black Atlanta and only interacted with Black people in service positions, virtually unaware of the Black institutions and achievements taking place only a mile or two from their homes. To counter that narrative, Scott founded The Atlanta Daily World newspaper, PBS reports, which was originally the weekly Atlanta World.
Not only was it the first successful Black daily newspaper in the nation and the first Black daily newspaper in the 20th century, it was only the second Black-owned newspaper in the Atlanta area. The Atlanta Independent ceased operations in 1933 and The Daily World grew in popularity as a result, covering the issues most important to Atlanta’s growing Black community. Giving new meaning to the term “for us, by us,” Scott outlined very plainly his purpose for publishing the Daily World in its very first issue.
“The publishers of The Atlanta World have felt the need of a Southern Negro Newspaper, published by Southern Negroes, to be read by Southern Negroes,” wrote Scott.
The newspaper hired door-to-door salesmen to gain subscribers and hired local paperboys for distribution, growing to become one of the most widely circulated Black newspapers in the South by 1930. The paper’s headquarters was located on Auburn Avenue, an area once hailed as the “mecca of Black commerce.” But The Atlanta Daily World for Scott was more business than political, and he secured local and national advertisements from both Black and white businesses.
Some of his most consistent advertisers included companies like Coca-Cola, Sears, Roebuck & Company, and Rich’s, the largest department store in the Atlanta area. Unlike other Black newspapers, Scott maintained a neutral and objective stance with his editorial publishing surrounding racism, which allowed white businesses to feel comfortable advertising in his publication.
By May 1930, The Atlanta Daily World was being published semi-weekly and then tri-weekly in April 1931. That same year, Scott also launched The Chattanooga Tribune and The Memphis World, making history as the owner of the first chain of African-American newspapers, growing the operations to more than 50 Black-owned papers at one time.
On March 13, 1932, The Daily World officially became a daily newspaper, allowing for more accurate reporting and distinguishing it from other Black-owned papers, which were mostly printed weekly. Unfortunately, Scott was tragically shot and killed on February 4, 1934 before he could realize the full manifestation of his work. His brother, Cornelius Adolphus Scott, took over operations, taking a more conservative and Republican position at the time.
The World continued to break barriers, covering national stories like lynchings, police brutality, discrimination in the federal government, mistreatment of Black soldiers during World War II, etc. They promoted the patronage of Black-owned businesses, which included the “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” campaign and sponsored voter registration efforts in the 1940s. The paper also became the first to send an assigned reporter to the White House, Harry S. Alpin becoming the first African-American to cover White House reports on February 8, 1944.
While the paper received some backlash for its unwillingness to report sit-ins and protests during the Civil Rights Movement, C.A. Scott stood his ground, arguing that the demonstrations were dangerous and that our energies could be better served working to end segregation in education, obtaining political influence, and gaining economic footing. C.A. Scott eventually retired as editor at the age of 89 after 63 years at the helm, naming his great niece, Alexis Scott Reeves, as publisher on August 14, 1997.
Reeves previously worked as a journalist at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was able to usher the paper into its next era, merging the publication under the Real Times Inc. media banner in 2012, which also publishes other Black news weeklies including the Chicago Defender and New Pittsburgh Courier. Today, the paper continues to report on daily news, arts and culture, politics, lifestyle issues, and has even expanded into the podcast field.
The Atlanta Daily World’s archives are currently held in the African-American collections at Emory University’s Rose Library.
Then and Now: Here’s everything you need to know about The Atlanta Daily World Newspaper/Photo Courtesy of Atlanta Daily World archives