This peach-colored commercial building is a landmark of both journalism and the struggle for civil rights in 19th Century New Orleans. Here were the original offices of the New Orleans Tribune, first Black-owned daily newspaper in the United States and a fierce champion for Black rights during and after the Civil War.
Running the Tribune were its founder Dr. Louis Charles Roudanez, his brother Jean Baptiste Roudanez, and the newspaper’s editor Paul Trèvigne, all free people of color; they would be joined by the Belgian Jean-Charles Houzeau, who would publish a memoir of his time at the Tribune. Emerging from the French-language L’Union, which launched in 1862 as the first Black-owned newspaper of the South, the bi-lingual Tribune debuted as a daily in 1864. It enjoyed a run of more than a thousand issues before it closed in 1869.
The leaders of the Tribune were close to the Herriman family. Among the political actions promoted by L’Union was a petition to Abraham Lincoln demanding voting rights, which was signed by one thousand free men of color, including George Herriman’s father and grandfather. Jean Baptiste Roudanez along with Arnold Bertonneau — a friend of the Herrimans’ — directly presented the petition to Lincoln.
The Herriman & Chessé tailor shop on Royal Street stood just blocks from the Tribune office, and the two institutions were even closer to each other when the Tribune moved to 122-124 Exchange Alley. Not surprisingly, the Herrimans show up frequently in the Tribune’s pages. An advertisement for an 1865 lecture by Madam Louise De Mortie — a free Black from Boston who had moved to New Orleans to assist the Colored Orphans Home — included the Herriman & Chessé shop among the establishments that were selling tickets. George Herriman Sr.’s participation from everything to the Fraternité 20 lodge to Republican party meetings was noted in the pages of the Tribune. And when the cartoonist’s great-grandmother Justine Olivier perished in a steamboat accident in 1866, the Tribune printed the sad news on its front page, noting that Olivier was a “well-known and universally respected lady.”