North Carolina Newspapers

North Carolina Newspapers

The Goldsboro Star (Goldsboro, N.C.)

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May 14, 1881 – July 22, 1882
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The Goldsboro (NC) Star was issued biweekly beginning in 1881. George T. Wassom (1849-1932), an African American lawyer and an active member in North Carolina’s Republican party, was the newspaper’s publisher and editor. He used the Star to share news of the Republican party and advocate for Black political participation. In the January 7, 1882 issue of the newspaper, Wassom criticized the editor of the Carolina Enterprise, another newspaper for African Americans in Goldsboro, for suggesting that Black people seek advancement through means other than politics. He wrote, “It certainly seems amazingly strange to us, for an editor of a colored paper to advise this outraged, proscribed, yet rising people, to quit the very work that has brought them from the slave cotton field to the citizenship of American freemen.”

The masthead of early editions of the Star noted that the newspaper was “published in the interest of the Colored People of the South.” Later, the newspaper billed itself as “published in the interest of the Republican Party.” The Star‘s nameplate included the biblical proverb “Hear instruction and be wise, and refuse it not.” An annual subscription cost one dollar. In 1883, the newspaper reported a circulation of 3,000.

Wassom’s wife, Frankie E. Harris Wassom (1850-1933), helped her husband run the Star. A graduate of Oberlin College, Frankie Wassom was a teacher in Virginia, Tennessee, and Mississippi prior to marriage. In Goldsboro, she trained other African American teachers. In addition to writing for the Star, Frankie Wassom also contributed reports to other newspapers. She was also a poet, musician, and artist.

In May 1881, George Wassom joined with other Black Republicans in North Carolina at a meeting in Raleigh to discuss the indifference of national party leaders to the participation of African Americans, who were eager to increase their representation among elected positions. On May 28, 1881, the Star reported that those gathered in Raleigh had endorsed the newspaper as the “Organ of the colored republicans of North Carolina.”

In November 1882, Wassom ran for solicitor, now known as district attorney, in the judicial district that included New Bern. He lost the race, earning 16,742 votes to his white opponent’s 18,985.

Wassom championed the welfare of African Americans in additional ways. In 1878, he led a campaign to establish a public library for African Americans in Goldsboro. In a letter published in the March 28, 1878 edition of the Goldsboro Messenger, Wassom wrote, “We hope in the course of another year to possess one of the largest public libraries in the south. We feel that the only road for the colored people to travel for prosperity is that of intelligence and that only will raise them from their present ignorant condition.” In 1883, Wassom was among several Black leaders urging the state legislature to establish an orphanage for African American children.

On December 14, 1882, the Goldsboro Messenger reported that the Star had consolidated with the Carolina Enterprise to become the Goldsboro Star-Enterprise. Wassom joined with Ezekiel Ezra Smith (1852-1933), editor of the Enterprise, to lead the merged newspaper. However, the Star-Enterprise appears to have existed less than five months. By April 1883, Smith and the Enterprise had joined with the publishers of the Banner of Raleigh, North Carolina, to issue the Banner-Enterprise from Raleigh.

On April 19, 1888, the Weekly Transcript and Messenger of Goldsboro reported that George Wassom was serving as editor-in-chief for the Voice, a new Republican newspaper in Goldsboro. There are no extant copies of the paper, and its history is unknown.

In 1889, Wassom was among a group of North Carolina’s Black leaders reportedly decrying the situation of African Americans in North Carolina and encouraging emigration to Kansas or Arkansas. A February 7, 1889 report by the adjutant general of North Carolina’s state militia to the governor suggests Wassom distributed a circular in Goldsboro in which he wrote, “The landlords of the cotton belt of the State are trying to enslave the colored people under a system which will be worse than the old slavery of twenty years ago and keep you dependent.” As a result, Governor Daniel G. Fowle directed Brigadier General W. H. Anthony to proceed to Goldsboro to investigate and, if necessary, restore civil order. The March 7, 1889 issue of the Wilmington Messenger reported a Raleigh meeting in which Wassom participated. The newspaper noted that attendees were told that “40,000 negroes were wanted in Kansas, and that the fare there was only $11.” There are no reports of disorder, nor of ill-treatment of Wassom resulting from his activities.


Provided by: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library, Chapel Hill, NC

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