Timothy Thomas Fortune was born a slave in Marianna, Florida, to Sarah Jane and Emanuel Fortune on October 3, 1856. He attended Howard University from 1876 to 1877. He was trained as a printer and traveled to New York where he was hired by “The New York Sun” in 1878 and later promoted to the editorial staff. From 1891 to 1907 he was the editor and co-owner of several influential New York-based black newspapers including “The New York Globe” and “The New York Freeman,” the latter of which was renamed “The New York Age” in 1887. Fortune’s tenure at “The New York Age” for over 20 years established him as the leading African American journalist of the late 19th and early 20th century. Under his editorial direction, the paper became the nation’s most influential black paper, and was used to protest discrimination, lynching, mob violence, and disenfranchisement.
In 1890 Fortune co-founded the Afro-American League. It was one of the earliest equal rights organizations in the United States and a precursor of the Niagara Falls Movement and The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Fortune wrote intermittently for “The Amsterdam News” and for “The Norfolk Journal and Guides.” He also served as an editor of Marcus Garvey’s “Negro World.” At its height the “Negro World” had a circulation of over 200,000. With distribution throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and in Central America it may have been the most widely distributed newspaper in the world at that time. Thomas Fortune died on June 2, 1928.
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