KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Kansas City Call newspaper is a reservoir of African American history both in Kansas City, Missouri and across the country. The Call was founded in 1919 by Chester A. Franklin. He was a printer by trade and moved to Kansas City from Colorado.
Current Publisher and Managing Editor, Donna Stewart, said that Franklin parents published an African-American newspaper in Colorado.
“He came from a newspaper family so starting The Call in Kansas City wasn’t anything news to him,” Stewart explained.
“He moved to Kansas City because Kansas City has a larger African-American population so he established himself as a printer and then established the newspaper,” Stewart added.
After Franklin’s death, his wife, Ada Franklin, became the publisher. Then Lucile Bluford became the publisher and trained the current owner and publisher, Donna Stewart.
Many people do not know that Roy Wilkins got his start working at the Kansas City Call.
“Roy went on to become Executive Director of the NAACP,” said Stewart.
There is an issue from 1919 that stays in the newsroom at The Call’s Kansas City office. The banner story is about a lynching in Omaha, Nebraska. Stewart said The Call was one of the first newspapers to record lynchings.
“Universities used The Call to record lynchings through the country, so to me that was the sign of the times as far as racial relations in the country during that time,” Stewart added.
Stewart is also proud that the call is also a record of people’s lives including how people lived and worked, business news, church news and community events
“It gave the average citizen a platform and we still do that today,” she explained.
The Call has progressed technologically. The days of huge printing presses are over. The call is all digital now and readers can go online to read their weekly issue which is published every Friday.
The issue of Mayor Cleaver being elected the first African-American Mayor of Kansas City is the first time the newspaper printed a color picture. The issue of President Obama’s election as President sold 35,000 copies—the highest sales in the Call’s history.
While there are many achievements, Stewart says there is much work to do.
“We still have many issues to resolve mainly the public education system, Black-on-Black crime, better housing and improving the 3rd district,” she emphasized.
Stewart has been working at The Call for 35 years. As she reflects on her career she believes one of the proudest moments printing information that helped lead police to Precious Doe’s killer.
The trophy case at The Call is lined with awards from civic and political and professional organizations. They are recognition for a staff that believes they have a calling to be the voice of the African-American community.
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