Audrey J. Bernard

*The stellar 100th anniversary gala of the New York Amsterdam News and tribute to the late Wilbert A. Tatum, publisher emeritus of NYC’s oldest African American newspaper, honored Hon. Hillary Clinton, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., William “Bill” Lynch, R. Donahue Peebles and Hon. Charles B. Rangel at the David H. Koch Theater, formerly The New York State Theater, at Lincoln Center on Monday, November 30, 2009.

A sea of beautifully dressed to the nines guests answered the call to come and enjoy themselves while luxuriating in the grandeur of the stately Lincoln Center which was swarmed with Secret Service for obvious reasons.

Guests hobnobbed and exchanged AmNews memories at a glistening reception followed by a monumental anniversary celebration featuring a delectable dinner and powerful politically charged program amidst a supper club chic atmosphere.

In addition to paying tribute to the publication’s beloved publisher emeritus and chairman of the board, Wilbert A. Tatum, the monumental centennial celebration also established the Wilbert A. Tatum Archival Center to transfer the newspaper’s extraordinary archives to a digital format.

“This unique celebration will raise funds through The Amsterdam News Educational Foundation for the first phase of the establishment of the Wilbert A. Tatum Archival Center named after the late Wilbert A. Tatum, publisher emeritus, AmNews.  This would broaden access to our chronicle of African American history,” said Elinor R. Tatum, publisher and editor-in-chief, AmNews.

The New York Amsterdam News archives contain articles by prominent African Americans.  There are more than a half million photographs depicting news and life in Harlem, Black America and Black peoples throughout the world.

“Our archives contain articles by prominent African Americans such as W.E. B. Du Bois, Roy Wilkins, Adam Clayton Powell, Herb Boyd, Kevin Powell and Malcolm X, stated Ms. Tatum.

“We also have more than a half million photographs depicting news and life in Harlem, Black America and Black peoples throughout the world.  Our wish is that people all over the world will be able to search our database either through the internet or at the Wilbert A. Tatum Archival  Center,” concluded Ms. Tatum.

The fundraiser was hosted by Hon. David A. Paterson and Tatum’s widow, Susan Tatum.  The esteemed honorary chairs committee was comprised of living Black movers and shakers carrying the legacy torch with great pride:

Sade Baderinwa, Ruby Dee, Hon. David N. & Joyce B. Dinkins, Maurice DuBois, Morgan Freeman, Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee, Jessye Norman, Gen. Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.), Chris Rock & Malaak Compton-Rock, Al Roker & Deborah Roberts and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Leonard Riggio, chairman, Barnes & Noble, Inc. and Susan Whiting, vice chair, The Nielsen Company, served as dinner co-chairs.  Michelle Morial served as host.

An evening of this magnitude called for unordinary planning.  Kudos to event producer Dwight Johnson of Dwight Johnson Design who did an extraordinary job in making this the best year-end event ever! (Photo by Gideon Manasseh)

About The New York Amsterdam News

$10 Investment 95 years ago turned the Amsterdam News into one of New York’s largest and most influential Black-owned and operated business institutions.

On December 4, 1909, the late James H. Anderson put out the first issue of the Amsterdam News.  He had $10 in his pocket, six sheets of paper, a lead pencil and a dressmaker’s table.

The newspaper was one of only 50 Black papers in the United States at that time, and it was sold for 2 cents a copy from Anderson’s home at 132 W. 65th Street, in the San Juan Hill section of Manhattan.

With the spread of Blacks to Harlem and the growing success of the paper, Anderson moved the Amsterdam News uptown to 17 W. 135th Street in 1910.  In 1916, it moved to 2293 Seventh Ave., and in 1938, it moved again, to 2271 Seventh Avenue.  In the early 1940s, the paper relocated to its present address at 2340 Eighth Avenue in Harlem, New York.

Not soon after the death of Edward Warren, one of the early publishers, Anderson sold his stock in the paper.  In 1935, after many years of struggle, the paper was sold to the Powell Savory Corporation, then owned by two of the nations foremost Black entrepreneurs, Dr. C.B. Powell and Dr. Phillip M.H. Savory.  Dr. Powell assumed the role of publisher.

During Powell’s stewardship, the Amsterdam News not only took on local news, but national news as well.  Much of the paper’s strength was based on its shaping the advancement and realization of Black aspirations.  As a consequence, the paper is undoubtedly the most frequently quoted Black weekly in the world.

On May 1, 1971, Dr. C.B. Powell announced his retirement and sold the Amsterdam News to the AmNews Corporation, its present owner.  Over the years, many important figures in journalism have been editors of the paper.  While the Amsterdam News is Black-oriented, it has always been aware of the fact that it serves a multiracial community and recognized other ethnic groups.

In August 1982, Wilbert A. Tatum, chairman of the board and editor-in-chief, assumed direction of the paper and has since broadened its editorial perspective, particularly in international affairs. This expanded thrust has produced considerable interest and readership from all sectors of the local, national and international communities.

In July 1996, Tatum bought out the last remaining investor, putting the future of the paper in the hands of the Tatum family.  In December 1997, Tatum stepped down as publisher and editor-in-chief and passed the torch to his daughter, Elinor Ruth Tatum, who was 26 years old at the time.

Today, The New York Amsterdam News remains an editorial voice for Black people.  The Amsterdam News, in its 95 years, has had many significant innovations.  It was the second Black newspaper to be admitted to the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), in October 1930, of which it is still a member.  In 1936, it became the first — and still is the only — Black newspaper that was unionized in all departments by the Newspaper Guild of New York, Local 3.

Photos from the event:

Michelle Morial, Elinor Tatum, David Dinkins

Michelle Morial, Honoree Charles Rangel, presenter Bill Clinton


Honorees Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Hillary Clinton

Susan Tatum, Dr. Michel Ketley, & Hazel Dukes

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.