The New Orleans Tribune, or la Tribune de la Nouvelle Orléans, was America’s first black daily newspaper. Created by free black leaders, the Tribune was a formidable political tool that built a courageous campaign for social justice during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. The paper’s primary mission, the right for all black men to vote, resonated throughout the nation and demanded Lincoln’s attention. The Tribune agenda included redistribution of plantation land to the emancipated, streetcar desegregation, the creation of integrated public schools, equal accommodations in public facilities, equitable legislative representation, and full legal rights. The journal swiftly built a reputation as the leading voice of the black community and was widely respected as a force in Louisiana politics and beyond.
The Tribune tirelessly attacked any notion of black inferiority, serving as a counter-narrative to an overwhelmingly prejudiced white press and public. Turning those lies around, the journal projected a positive image of black manhood and womanhood, giving voice and agency to all of the African descent.
Free black men had created one of the most radical and influential newspapers of its time, resulting in a greatly expanded sphere of power and influence for all of African descent. Their project, articulated in print and manifested in social protest, anticipated events 100 years later and forged the first coherent civil rights movement in the American South.