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A.J Smitherman

A.J. Smitherman had established himself as one of the leading lights of the African-American community. The founder and publisher of the Tulsa Star as well as an attorney, Smitherman was a passionate, fearless and vociferous advocate for his people, both in the pages of his newspaper and in the streets. While his stature in the Black community was unquestionable, his integrity and determination also earned him recognition from some white power brokers. He regularly corresponded with every Oklahoma governor while he was in Tulsa and actively promoted Democratic politicians. In 1919 when President Woodrow Wilson visited Oklahoma City, the governor chose Smitherman to be among the delegates to greet him.

In the aftermath of the Tulsa Riot and Massacre, Smitherman’s life and that of his family, was changed immeasurably. After living in Boston and Springfield, Massachusetts for a few years, Smitherman moved his family to Buffalo, New York in 1925. While the record states that Smitherman earned some money writing for other publications and lecturing, he and his family must have encountered some difficult times. Yet, by 1932, Smitherman returned to the newspaper business with the establishment of the Buffalo Star. With a one hundred dollar loan and the support of his wife, who worked as a composer and pressman, he opened a small office next door to a funeral parlor. Even at the height of the Great Depression, Smitherman was able to put out a newspaper that earned critical support for its quality and high standards.

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