The Warren County Freedom Democratic Party, the local branch of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, published the Vicksburg Citizens’ Appeal from 1964 to 1967 to serve as a voice for African Americans. The front page of the first issue declared, “The paper will print full news of events in the Vicksburg area Negro community—social and club activities, sporting events, and political and civil news. The Citizens’ Appeal will also keep its readers informed of important events in the struggle for Negro rights, here in Vicksburg and elsewhere in Mississippi.” The paper’s central message was an end to segregation and racial discrimination.
The first issue of the eight-page tabloid was published on 22 August 1964. Originally a weekly published on Saturdays, by 1965 a second edition appeared each Monday A one-year subscription cost $3.50, and single issues cost 10 cents. Circulation usually ranged between three hundred and five hundred copies but at times reached three thousand. Ollye Brown Shirley, whose husband, Aaron, was for many years Mississippi’s only African American pediatrician, initially served as the paper’s editor. She was succeeded on 30 August 1965 by Dilla E. Irwin, who continued as editor until the newspaper ceased in 1967. Constantly in need of financial support, the newspaper received aid not only from local black sources but also from other parts of the country. Advertisements cost about three dollars, and all were bought by black or black-oriented businesses.
Despite its short life, the Vicksburg Citizens’ Appeal was a significant presence in mid-1960s Mississippi. When many historically white newspapers were ignoring or belittling the civil rights movement and when some African American–run newspapers were counseling slow change, the Citizens’ Appeal was an activist newspaper.
- Julius Thompson, The Black Press in Mississippi, 1865–1985 (1993)