The Pioneer Press

The Pioneer Press was the first African-American newspaper published in West Virginia. J.R. Clifford served as both the owner and editor of the paper, which was published in Martinsburg.

In 2006, the J.R. Clifford Project published its own version of the Pioneer Press, featuring excerpts from the original newspaper and information articles about J.R. Clifford. You can download the paper as a pdf below, or keep scrolling to read some highlights from the original Pioneer Press.

Excerpts from the original Pioneer Press

“A mystery to be solved. Why is it the colored citizens are never missed by the assessors and are always found by the Sheriffs to pay taxes, and are never found to act as Jurors?

Pioneer Press, October 28th, 1888

“Andrew Hunter, Esq. of Coketonburg, who prosecuted John Brown, died the 20th at the advanced age of 85. He lived long enough after Brown’s death to be convinced that there was more divinity than fanaticism in Brown’s actions. In 1881 at Storer College, we saw Mr. Hunter get up, and advancing to where Frederick Douglass sat, took his hand, shook it friendly, and said “Let us go on”, to which Mr. Douglass replied “In peace together”. When we remember that Mr. Hunter did his best to catch Douglass to prosecute him with Brown – although we have never thought he did enough to be hung – it was a manly confession for him to make before that multitude of people, and we hope that his, as well as John Brown’s spirit, is at peace with God.”

Pioneer Press, October 28th, 1888

“The absurdity of a railroad company compelling American citizens to ride in stinking parts of cars…It is and has been done by the Norfolk and Western for years, and by allowing it, it has gone a step further and built a “n*****r waiting room” in Shepherdstown and Charleston Town. Not only petition the Public Service Commission, but refuse to go into the provided pigpens and slave-huts at either station above named, and if you are forced in the huts or stinking compartments of cars, come to us, and we’ll fight your cases free of charge.”

Pioneer Press, July 24th, 1915 (from an editorial on segregated railroads)

“When a jitney bus line was started here recently, colored would-be passengers were refused admission. The Pioneer Press suggested two remedies. First was to bring suit; second put jitney buses on the road. This has been done and now we have four on the road and best of all, colored folk are keeping them busy. No better way in this wide world to hurt caste than by smashing flat the pocket books of Negro haters.”

Pioneer Press, July 31st, 1915

“This paper is at a loss to understand the actions of the first Republican Council of Martinsburg for the past ten years. Mr. David Russler applied for and got license to open a pool room, but when it became known that colored persons were going to be allowed to play there, the council compelled him to refuse to allow them to play pool or have his license revoked…Do they suppose Negro voters are going to stand for such slaps and not kick?”

Pioneer Press, August 14th, 1915

“One who lies can have no love for truth. The Southern white man has made the Southern white woman his pinnacle on which to preach the gospel of purity in order to make the world condone their lynching – when in reality deep rooted prejudice is the cause…”

Pioneer Press, August 21st, 1915