Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Don’t be so complacent

In addition to advocating for civil rights, L. C. Bates used his paper to express his support for the war efforts. 

Even before the war, he encouraged “thinking colored Americans” to back the stand of Franklin D. Roosevelt against neutrality toward Adolf Hitler of Germany. He wrote:

“Those who say life would be no worse under Hitler are not speaking advisedly.”

Back to the basics

When recalling the war years later in life, Bates noted that the persecution of blacks in America was low for a time, but when the Japanese surrendered, “back they went” to the same mistreatment as before.

With a hint of bitterness, Bates wrote in the State Press, “We never could understand how our country was based upon Christian principles, but there was more Christianity shown in Russia than in America.”

Not until then

To urge blacks to move from the seat of complacency and not stand for the treatment they were receiving in America, Bates used his editorials to pull at the black community’s heartstrings and tap into their intellects. For several years since the first issue of the State Press was released, he had a declaration placed inside of the paper below the credits that read:

The Day We Hope For

When we can live in peace and harmony with one another –irrespective of race, color, creed, former servitude or present position in life, without mythical tolerance, but in the spirit of Good Will, assured in the conviction of our better judgement that we will remit to every man the indomitable rights to the admonition of his own conscience in whatever line of endeavor he pursues for his religious or material existence. When that day arrives, we will be contented. THEN, we all can boast of our civilization, and not until then —L . C . Bates

No work, no play

Bates believed that the ability to hold a good job was one of the most important opportunities for black people to take advantage of. He often used editorials to give direction to the black worker and to encourage him to think and to decide how he might better his situation. He did this through his weekly column, “The Plight of the Worker Today.”

He also spoke directly to the black community through his column, “Something to Think About,” which he hoped would drive blacks to think about where they were as a people or encourage them to be the best they could be. In one segment, he listed five attributes that he believed blacks should strive for that could change the course of their lives, which included building character, acquiring moral courage through self-discipline, developing intelligence and the ability to think clearly, establishing the habits of thrift and frugality, and cultivating confidence in the ability to carry through plans and programs if worked out and presented in the light of experience and efficiency.

Not only did he encourage and enlighten his people, Bates also chastised them when they were wrong. In one editorial, he scolded black men for their use of “vulgar and profane” language on Ninth Street, the epicenter of black business and social life in Little Rock. Although Bates was a habitual curser, vulgarity was one thing that he despised.

Consequences of the truth

Bates was never afraid to speak his truth nor was he afraid to speak his mind, and because of that, he received a lot of backlash. He was sued several times, and was even jailed, for his writings in the State Press, but regardless of what was thrown at him, he never backed down from what he wrote and wasn’t afraid to say it out loud.

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