The Journal of Industry began publication on April 1, 1879 as the official organ of the North Carolina Industrial Association (NCIA), an African American civic organization whose charter noted its desire to “promote the development of the industrial and educational resources of the colored people of North Carolina.” The newspaper, published in Raleigh, N.C., was edited by Charles Norfleet Hunter (1851-1931), a member of the NCIA’s executive committee, and his brother, Osborne Hunter, Jr. (d. 1900), the organization’s secretary.
With a motto “God will help those who try to help themselves,” the Journal of Industry pushed for Black advancement while advocating that African Americans accept their secondary status in the state’s segregated environment. In a column in its debut issue, the editors noted that they planned to “steer clear of politics, sectarianism, personalities, and the like,” and that they hoped “our correspondents will take due notice and govern themselves accordingly.”
In addition to Black readers, the paper sought to reach white politicians and civic leaders. The Hunters devoted almost the entire front page of the April 1, 1879 issue to reprinting an 1865 letter written by Calvin H. Wiley, the white superintendent of North Carolina’s common schools from 1853-1865. Wiley shared his ideas for the future of race relations in the state, praising Black people for their loyalty during the Civil War and encouraging whites to “prove their claim to mental superiority by going forward unitedly, systematically, and earnestly to the work of instructing their dependent and docile neighbors.” In the same issue, the Hunters addressed a letter “To the White People of the South,” in which they implored whites to support Black people, and particularly the NCIA. “Our welfare, and their welfare is so indissolubly interwoven that whatever they do for us, with it be much or little, will enhance their fortune in the same proportion it will ours.”
Some African American leaders criticized the Hunters for urging Black people to avoid challenging whites, particularly in politics. Charles Hunter told the October 27, 1919 issue of The News and Observer of Raleigh, N.C., that he and his brother were accused of “the rankest political heresy,” and they were denounced as “traitors to the race.”
The Journal of Industry devoted significant coverage to the North Carolina Colored Industrial Association Fair. The multi-day event was the most well-known activity of the NCIA and brought thousands of Black North Carolinians together to marvel at new inventions, industrial devices, parades, balls, and speakers. North Carolina’s governor usually presented the opening address, and the fair welcomed public intellectuals such as Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass. The Journal of Industry provided extensive coverage of the event and reprinted speeches by the fair’s noted guests.
The newspaper initially published monthly, but by October 1880, it had become a weekly. A full-year subscription cost $1.50. The Journal of Industry as the title of the NCIA’s publication was short-lived. By April 1883, the NCIA’s official publication was The Banner and Enterprise, and the paper was no longer under the Hunters’ editorship.