Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History, there lived an African American female newspaper publisher, writer and civil rights activist named Charlotta Amanda Bass.
She was also the first African American female to run/nominated on a Progressive ticket to become Vice President of the USA.
She is known for her tremendous civil rights work as the owner and editor of The California Eagle from 1912 to 1951, which was the largest African American paper on the West Coast in the early to mid 1900s, based out of California. It was through this newspaper that Charlotta Amanda Bass fought against employment discrimination, demeaning depictions of black people in film and media as well as police brutality and housing discrimination.
Bass took charge and ownership of the paper when the African American founder of The California Eagle, John J. Neimore, passed away. He left her as his successor.
Going into herstory, born in Sumter, South Carolina on February 2, 1874, Charlotta A. Bass was the daughter of Hiram, a brick mason, and Kale Spears, a housekeeper. She was the 6th of 11 children.
She received her education from Pembroke State College, Columbia University and the University of California.
Before becoming owner and newspaper publisher of The California Eagle, she started off selling subscriptions for the publication. Her activism grew for black people while working at the paper. This is also where she met her husband, also a writer and activist, Joseph Bass.
After becoming owner and because of her strong stance in The California Eagle publication along with her own weekly column “On the Sidewalk”, Bass became a target for hate from white supremacist group, the KKK. She received death threats from them, especially after publishing a letter written by a KKK leader that aimed to kill black leaders.
Bass fought back herself, at times with her own weapon – a gun. She never fired it, but when confronted by multiple Klansmen, she threatened to use it which saved her life.
The US government halted an attempt by the postal service to revoke her mailing permit in order to stop her publication from reaching masses in 1943.
Nothing could stop Charlotta Amanda Bass, even after her husband passed away. Her activism continued in the face of much danger. The FBI falsely classified her as a communist and threat to national security. It was this same government that was allowing for the discrimination and threats against black people to continue.
She finally decided to run for political office, and ended up becoming the 1st African American woman nominated on a Progressive ticket for Vice President of the United States of America. According to the Associated Press, Name Card Index to AP Stories, 1905-1990:
- “She is Progressive party nominee for Vice President“
- “Nominated for V-P of Progressive Party Ticket”
- Running for Vice Presidency on Progressive ticket
- Progressive Party complains of airwave discrimination
Not only was she the 1st in that area, but also the 1st African American to sit on any jury in the city of Los Angeles.
At the end of her life and retirement from The California Eagle, she continued her activism with the youth in her community, providing books from her garage which she converted into a library.
On April 12, 1969, a widowed Charlotta Bass passed away from a cerebral hemorrhage. She is buried in Los Angeles, California at Evergreen Cemetery.
Little Known Fact about Charlotte Amanda Bass
On the 1880s United States Federal Census, Bass and her entire family of siblings and parents were listed as Mulatto (biracial). By the 1900s census, they were listed as black.
Sources: Ancestry, PBS