Claude Albert Barnett, entrepreneur and founder of the Associated Negro Press (1919-1967), was born in Sanford, Florida to William Barnett and Celena Anderson. At nine months he was brought to Mattoon, Illinois to live with his maternal grandmother.Barnett grew up in Illinois, attending schools in Oak Park and Chicago.In 1904 he entered Tuskegee Institute.Two years later in 1906 he received a diploma and was granted the Institute’s highest award.
Following graduation Barnett returned to Chicago and became a postal worker.Through his new employment he read numerous magazines and newspapers.Fascinated by the advertisements, in 1913 Barnett began reproducing photographs of notable black luminaries, which he sold through advertising in African American newspapers.By 1917 Barnett had transformed this endeavor into a thriving mail-order enterprise.
After this initial success, Barnett and several partners started the Kashmir Chemical Company, a cosmetics business where he served as advertising manager.Shortly thereafter he resigned his post office position and traveled the country, promoting both his photographs and beauty products to mostly black customers.As he placed his ads in various black newspapers across the country he noticed a common trend, these newspapers were in dire need of substantive news to report.
Consequently, in 1919 Barnett created the Associated Negro Press (ANP), a service designed to provide news outlets with a reliable stream of news stories.At first he bartered news stories from varied sources to the black newspapers in return for advertising space.Eventually he built a reliable team of black news reporters known as “stringers” who provided stories of interest to African Americans.Barnett then charged newspaper publishers $25 per week for access to the latest stories.
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