On September 26, 1874, William Caswell Smith and Cornelius D. Waddell (1858-1911) published the first issue of the Educator of Fayetteville, North Carolina. In the Educator‘s debut issue, Smith and Waddell stated their goal of “training the intellectual and moral sentiments” of “the colored youth of North Carolina,” and suggested that the newspaper’s content supported that mission. They also acknowledged the support of a “Republican Publishing Company,” but provided no further details on the company. The Afro-American Press and Its Editors, published in 1891, suggests that the Educator was the first newspaper in North Carolina edited and published by African Americans.
The Educator regularly featured poetry, lessons on manners and prayer, instruction for raising children, and lifestyle advice for young men and women. It also included news about churches and their governing bodies, particularly the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion church. Early issues of the newspaper carried a “notice” from James Walker Hood (1831-1918), a bishop in the North Carolina conference of the A.M.E. Zion Church. Hood wrote, “As one half of the paper is to be devoted to religious purposes; I take great pleasure in recommending it to our people. Let us encourage our young men by giving this paper a general circulation and a liberal support.”
In the third issue of the Educator, Waddell introduced a column titled “Religious Intelligence,” to which he encouraged “any minister of the gospel” to contribute. With the February 6, 1875 issue, the column was renamed “Religious Department” and placed under the editorial control of Robert Harris (1839-1880), an educator who helped start several schools for African Americans in Fayetteville. The February 6 issue also included a front-page letter from Hood to “ministers and members” of the A.M.E. Zion Church announcing the church’s adoption of the Educator as its “organ” and encouraging them to subscribe to the newspaper. Hood’s letter ran in the left column on the front page in all subsequent issues of the Educator.
In addition to content about the A.M.E. Church and religion, the Educator featured news about the Republican Party, which advocated for basic civil rights for African Americans in the 1870s. The newspaper noted in a prospectus that appeared on the second page of many issues that it was not “strictly a party paper,” but that it would “earnestly defend the Republican principles and policy, believing them to be necessary to the peace, prosperity and happiness of the American people.”
One year after the Educator‘s debut, Waddell and Smith suspended publication with the September 25, 1875 issue. They touted their work on behalf of the Republican Party and wrote “we regret that our patronage is not sufficient to insure (sic) another year’s success, for it is the want of patronage that compels us to stop our publication.” Elsewhere in the issue, Caswell and Smith noted “it is hoped that our people will not be without a journal long.” However, the newspaper never resumed publication.