The Library of Virginia

Headquarters and Staff of Mitchell's Planet.

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Following the Richmond School Board debacle in 1884, the organizers of the Planet chose John Mitchell to edit and manage the paper. Shortly thereafter he formed the Planet Printing Company and attracted to the paper, “other prominent young men of the day, including J. Andrew Bowler, M.B. Jones, John R. Childs.”

Under his direction, the Planet grew and prospered to such a degree that James H. Hayes, Edmund A. Randolph and other earlier owners of the paper attempted to reclaim control. They were thwarted in this attempt.

The paper was sold at public auction by the city sheriff for $400.00. The sum was put up by the Reverend W.W. Brown, a, “powerful figure in the community and Grand Worthy Master of the Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers,” who turned the paper over to the young John Mitchell and his associates. [Richmond Planet, 5/28/1938]

Other factors hampered Mitchell’s efforts to provide Richmond's African-American community with a stable source of news and opinion. Nationwide, illiteracy posed a significant threat to the black community as a whole and to the newspaper industry in particular. During the 1860's illiteracy among the black population reached as high as 60%. Though this rate diminished to about 30% by the turn of the century, this limited reader base made early publishing efforts extremely difficult. Other issues, such as internal distribution problems, the low income of most blacks, and the hostility of the white establishment also affected publication. [cf. Lawrence D. Hogan, A Black National News Service: The Associated Negro Press and Claude Barnett,1919-1945 (London, 1983, pp.29, 15, 24-25)].

Yet despite these quite formidable odds, from 1884 to 1929, Mitchell stood at the helm of the Richmond Planet, guiding it from the end of one century well into the next. To assist him in this endeavor, Mitchell employed the services of an able staff. A look through the following images, all taken from the December 21, 1895 issue, will again bring them and their work to life.

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