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Moment of Indiana History

Black and White and Read All Over: The Indianapolis Recorder

A national leader among African-American publications, the Indianapolis Recorder newspaper has served the Circle City’s black population since 1895.

Founding publishers George P. Stewart and Will Porter transformed a church newsletter into an award-winning media outlet whose readership now exceeds that of other local weeklies.

The Recorder was pre-dated by Indianapolis Leader, which sprang up in 1879 to serve the roughly eight percent of city residents who were black.

The Indianapolis Colored World reached out to the same community from 1883 through 1932, but the Recorder had a special appeal with its emphasis on local news events.

Its sales agents moonlighting as stringers from various regions of the state and beyond, the Recorder showcased state and national stories and opinion of particular significance to African-Americans.

The latest on voting rights, public accommodations and improved opportunities for Indianapolis blacks to obtain healthcare, housing, education and employment beamed from Recorder headlines, along with coverage of Ku Klux Klan activity and lynchings. By mid-century, news of the civil rights movement came to dominate the paper’s editorial content.

Upon assuming ownership of the Recorder in 1990, Indianapolis businessman William Mays resuscitated the publication’s readership and financial profile.

Mays’ niece Carolene Mays became the Recorder’s publisher in 1998, infusing its pages with an explicitly positive and empowering tone.

Since that time, The Recorder has received numerous awards from the National Newspaper Publishers Association and the Society of Professional Journalists, along with  the Indiana Journalism Award in 2000 and the 2001 National Enshrinement Award in Washington, D.C., which resulted in the Recorder’s placement in the National Black Archives.

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