The city’s leading African American newspaper in the late 1800s, the Chattanooga Blade was recognized for its rare quality as a publication edited and produced by African Americans. The Blade was published weekly by Randolph Miller, one of the few ex-slaves who published and edited a newspaper in the United States during that period. Miller had come to Chattanooga in October 1864 and worked for several local newspapers before launching his own publishing venture.
Randolph adopted a bold and exciting writing style and addressed hard issues without pulling his punches. In 1905, for example, the Blade sparked protest against the application of Jim Crow laws to city street cars. On July 5, 1905, Miller and his associates launched a street car boycott and on July 16 organized hack lines with “three vehicles of sorry appearance” to help transport African Americans in dignity. Within a few weeks black businessmen applied to start their own bus company. White officials and businessmen moved quickly to quash the effort. In an October 1905 issue of the Blade Miller complained, “They have taken our school to the frog pond; they have passed the Jim Crow Law; they have knocked us out of the jury box; they have played the devil generally; and what in thunder more will they do? No one knows.” (1)
Randolph Miller died in 1915, but the Chattanooga Times regularly reprinted excerpts from Miller’s editorials after his death under the heading “Flashes from the Blade.”