September 28, 2021

Philip Alexander Bell – Editor, Journalist & Founder of The Weekly Advocate & The Elevator

Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History lived an African American man named Philip Alexander Bell who founded two African American newspapers – The Weekly Advocate and the Elevator – where he played important roles as an abolitionist and civil rights activist for Black people in the United States of America.


Born in about 1808 in the New York City, Philip Alexander Bell grew up around a climate of abolitionists after graduating from the African Free School when he began attending what was known as the Colored Citizens Conventions. It was at those conventions that he learned and discussed anti-slavery actions and how to network and join together for the cause of African Americans in America.

Philip A. Bell also went to work at the abolitionist newspaper – The Liberator – founded by well known white abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. It was here that he not only worked by learned much more about the inner workings of abolitionism and the workings of a newspaper publication.

Philip Alexander Bell Launches The Weekly Advocate

It was during the time he attended the Colored Citizens Conventions and worked with The Liberator that he founded his own newspaper for African Americans called The Weekly Advocate in 1937. He was 29 years old.

Not only did Philip Alexander Bell become familiar with William Lloyd Garrison, but he was also familiar with Frederick Douglass, the famous orator, writer and publisher who escaped slavery. These people had a great influence on Bell and he fell in the ranks as one of the more powerful networkers in the abolitionist community, even after moving to San Francisco in 1862.

Philip Alexander Bell Launches African American Newspaper

The Elevator

It was in San Fransisco where he began working as co-editor at The Pacific Appeal, an African American newspaper authored and launched by Peter Anderson, but soon after he left that establishment and launched his own weekly newspaper – The Elevator. (also known as the San Fransisco Elevator; launched post civil war) The Elevator was a political voice for the Black suffrage rights as well as the education of Black children.

In the year 1869, The Elevator bid an unfortunate farewell to the African American community for lack of funds – $200 which is approximately $4000 in 2021. In a quote from The Elevator via The San Francisco Examiner[1]:

“All earthly things must have an end, and we may as well stop the publication now as at any other time, for to this complexion it must come.”

The San Francisco Examiner continues below:

“What the complexion of its disappearance from the arena of journalism is, we are not informed. But we suppose it is from the pale color that poor Uncle Ned had when he departed his life. The Elevator regrets that it could not continue its existence until the assured confirmation of the Fifteenth Amendment.; “but fate,” it says, “or the indifference of those for whose benefit it is intended have decreed otherwise.”

“We rather think it is the “indifference” part of it. Certainly Jack Stratman, Frank Pixle, Billy Carr, and other leading lights of its party might, if they had no chosen, have raised two hundred dollars for the organ. They might have subscribed the amount themselves. The Re. Dr. Cox could have collected and hand over the small sum in a half-day’s traveling. The boot, blacks of the city, by furnishing each a pittance of his daily earnings, could have supplied the “requisite” in a week. Two weeks were given in which tot make the “raise:, and the consequence is that through fate of Radical indifference, the Elevator goes down. This is certainly too bad, after all that the able paper has done for its party. Its novel and consistent course in the Fourth of July matter should, if nothing else, have entitled it to distinguished consideration, The State Convention at Sacramento last Wednesday night, in grateful remembrance of faithful services rendered, have contributed enough to keep the influential and unyielding advocate going. But white men are mighty uncertain. If Radicals, our dusky brethren must not depend too leaningly upon them.”

“The Elevator has our sincere sympathy in its unfortunate demise. It is more than it will receive from the party whose cause it has helped to uphold.”

Based on the Elevator’s quote, it was a sad end to a paper that did much for the African American plight. It is suggested by the San Francisco Examiner that the party [Republican] could have but didn’t do anything to help the paper survive although the paper promoted the party. Philip Alexander Bell was a member of the Republican party (of that time).

Death

Philip Alexander Bell passed away in 1889, his funeral held at Episcopal Church of the Advent. He was 81 years old. According to the San Francisco Examiner[2], the eulogy described Bell as an honest and unselfish man who was devoted to the advancement of his race. He was God fearing and thus prepared to die.


Sources:

  • [1]The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) 23 Jul 1869, Fri Page 2
  • [2]The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) 29 April 1889, Mon Page 2