MARCH 9, 1912
Charlotta Bass became one of the nation’s first Black female editor-owners.
She renamed The California Owl newspaper The California Eagle, and turned it into a hard-hitting publication. She campaigned against the racist film, Birth of a Nation, which depicted the Ku Klux Klan as heroes, and against the mistreatment of African Americans in World War I. After the war ended, she fought racism and segregation in Los Angeles, getting companies to end discriminatory practices. She also denounced political brutality, running front-page stories that read, “Trigger-Happy Cop Freed After Slaying Youth.” When she reported on a KKK plot against Black leaders, eight Klansmen showed up at her offices. She pulled a pistol out of her desk, and they beat a “hasty retreat,” The New York Times reported.
“Mrs. Bass,” her husband told her, “one of these days you are going to get me killed.”
She replied, “Mr. Bass, it will be in a good cause.”
In the 1940s, she began her first foray into politics, running for the Los Angeles City Council. In 1951, she sold the Eagle and co-founded Sojourners for Truth and Justice, a Black women’s group. A year later, she became the first Black woman to run for vice president in 1952, running on the Progressive Party ticket. Her campaign slogan: “Win or Lose, We Win by Raising the Issues.” When Kamala Harris became the first Black female vice presidential candidate for a major political party in 2020, Bass’ pioneering steps were recalled.
“Bass would not win,” The Times wrote. “But she would make history, and for a brief time her lifelong fight for equality would enter the national spotlight.”