Biographical / Historical
The Louisville Leader was started by I. Willis Cole in 1917 with just $50.00. According to the Louisville Defender, with that $50.00 he created "one of the largest Negro newspaper organizations" in Louisville (March 18, 1954). The first issue of the Leader came off the press on November 3, 1917 and the public spirit of Cole manifested itself in that initial issue, reporting at length on the Young Men's Christian Association membership campaign. By the 1930s, the I. Willis Cole Publishing Company had established itself at 930 West Walnut Street, had twenty employees, and enjoyed a weekly circulation of approximately 20,000. The Louisville Leader was a black community newspaper in the fullest sense; it covered local religious, educational, social, fraternal, and sporting activities, as well as national and international news. According to the Louisville Encyclopedia, "The Leader announced births and deaths, named those suffering from illness, listed Louisville churches and their schedules of services, and printed news items from black correspondents elsewhere in the state. It advertised black businesses and professionals and sponsored contests. A voice for civil rights, the Leader styled itself 'your newspaper—militant but stable.' It implored blacks to vote; opposed Jim Crow laws, segregation, and black allegiance to the Republican [P]arty; and deplored lynchings as late as the 1940s." Cole planned ultimately to publish bi-weekly or even daily, but this hope ended with his death on February 19, 1950. His family tried to continue the newspaper, but suspended publication in the fall of 1950.