ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — An archive project is being put together for what is considered the longest-running Black newspaper in New York known as The Frederick Douglass Voice.

Civil rights champion Howard Coles began publishing the newspaper in 1933. His daughter, Joan Coles Howard, said it was her father’s desire to counteract the negative narratives published in other outlets.

“It highlighted our accomplishments,” she said. “He wouldn’t print it if it was negative.”

For six decades, the Frederick Douglass Voice — also known as the Rochester Voice — chronicled the lives of African Americans.

Coles was a well-known civil rights leader in the 20th century. He was inspired by the famous abolitionist, orator, author, and 19th-century Rochester resident Frederick Douglass.

“He tried to follow in Douglass’s footsteps,” said Joan.

Joan said that Coles borrowed money from his life insurance policy to begin publishing The Voice in 1933.

“Sometimes, it was every couple of weeks. It was dependent upon how much time and how much money he had,” Howard said.

In addition to society, news, and entertainment, the paper included pressing issues of the day involving housing and employment inequalities.

Joan remembers wanting to write about the civil unrest in the 1960s. When her dad objected, she and other members of the family started their own paper known as the Black Dispatch, but they couldn’t get enough advertisers to sustain it. She said her father didn’t have to utter the words “I told you so.”

“He had a way of looking at you that said it all. He didn’t have to say anything,” she said.

Coles took over as the editor of The Voice in 1990, updating the layout and increasing the volume of the paper. At it’s height, 10,000 issues were printed for subscribers.

“I used to work on it in the evenings and at night I would lay down next to the computer and take a quick nap,” Joan said.

She served as editor until its final publication in 1996 — the same year her father died at 93 years old.

“I’m always feeling him tapping me on my shoulder when it’s time for me to do or say ‘Daddy, I got it,'” she said.

In 1999, Joan donated the papers, photos, typewriter, and other materials from her father’s collection to the Rochester Museum and Science Center.

“I wanted it to live forever since he couldn’t,” Joan said.

To make them more accessible, the papers are being digitized and archived locally at the museum, the Rochester Public Library, and as part of the New York State Historic Newspapers.

“If there’s nothing like this, how do you find it? It’s important you need to know where you came from,” Joan said.

Journalists, historians, and students with Teen Empowerment have used the collection to help inform, create, and preserve the history of Rochester’s African American community.