The California Eagle, founded by an escaped slave from Missouri, John J. Neimore, was one of the oldest and longest running Black newspapers in Los Angeles, California. The California Owl was the name given to the newspaper by Neimore at first. The newspaper was founded to aid black settlers’ transitions to the West. Settlers only needed to look in the newspaper for information on housing, jobs, and other aspects of life in the west.
The newspaper rose to prominence in the early 1900s under the leadership of Charlotta A. Bass, who took over the paper after Neimore died in 1912. She later changed the name of the newspaper to The California Eagle.
Bass, along with her husband and a veteran Kansas journalist, decided to use the paper to launch a more militant campaign to end discrimination and segregation. The plan was to focus the newspaper on local and national political and social issues affecting African Americans. The paper challenged America at every opportunity to uphold the rights guaranteed by the Constitution to all Americans.
If there was an injustice occurring in America, it was addressed in this paper. Due to its derogatory portrayals of African Americans and celebratory depiction of Ku Klux Klan violence, D. W. Griffith’s film, “Birth of a Nation,” sparked articles and editorials in 1914. During World War I and World War II, the publication spoke out against military injustices. Following the wars, The California Eagle focused on the injustices occurring throughout the state.
The California Eagle banded together with other newspapers, including The Chicago Defender, Afro-American, and The Norfolk Journal, to support the Scottsboro Nine, a group of young men accused of raping two white women aboard a freight train. The paper was also a part of the “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” campaign, which discouraged blacks from shopping at establishments that used racist hiring practices.
Loren Miller, an attorney and former Eagle reporter, purchased The California Eagle from Charlotta Bass in 1951. Bass had spent more than 40 years fighting for equal rights in her community, and in 1952, she became the first black woman to run for national office as the Progressive Party’s Vice Presidential candidate. The Eagle kept pushing in the same direction as Charlotta Bass pursued full integration for African Americans in all sectors of society. Miller sold the paper in 1964, and the paper went out of business the following year.