A.J. Smitherman

Posthumously Inducted: 2020

A.J. SMITHERMAN (1883-1961) was an African-American press pioneer and political activist. In 1913, he founded the Tulsa Star, America’s first black Democratic nationally distributed newspaper. Smitherman highlighted the achievements and challenges of blacks throughout the country and encouraged them to use their constitutional rights to vote, and to defend themselves against mob rule and lynchings. During the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, Smitherman’s newspaper and home were destroyed, and he and his family were forced to flee. Eventually Smitherman settled in Buffalo, New York, where he launched the Buffalo Star. Smitherman continued to advocate for his race and provide leadership to his community until his death in 1961.