Arkansas State Press logo retrieved from digital archives at the Arkansas Studies Institute

The birth of the State Press

As a traveling salesman, L. C. Bates’ desire to start another newspaper grew in unison with the discontentment he felt for the way the people of his race were treated. The Jim Crow laws of the South deemed that blacks had to sit at the back of buses or streetcars, eat in the kitchen of restaurants or be denied entrance altogether, drink from “colored only” water fountains, and so on. Fed up, Bates wanted to use the tools that he had to stir blacks to demand equal rights that he felt were granted to them by the Constitution.   

Bates had always believed in the power of communication, and in his mind, the only way to bring about change in the community was through his newspaper. If blacks and whites could get to know each other, they could communicate.

“The black man knew the white man because he read his literature, but the only contact the whites had with the blacks was with those who worked about the white man’s house,” Bates said. “The only newspaper coverage the white man saw of blacks was about crimes blacks committed.”

For years, Bates pondered the idea of starting a newspaper, and during a sales run in Alexandria, Louisiana, he got the impetus he needed. Waiting for his appointment with the president of the company, Bates sat outside the man’s office. Unaware of who Bates was, the president stepped outside his office and addressed Bates with, “What do you want, boy?”  With the feeling of resentment rising inside of him, Bates affirmed to himself, “Now I’ve got to make this paper.”

To hear Bates share the tale of how he started the paper and why, click here.

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