Established by James H. Anderson on December 4, 1909 with an initial capital of $10, The New York Amsterdam News has been one of the leading black weekly newspapers for most of the 20th century. Owing to its location in the heart of Harlem, The Amsterdam News was the mouthpiece for one of the largest African American communities in the United States. It placed particular emphasis on covering the black community's society news: weddings, engagements, births and charity events. At its height it had a circulation of over 100,000. By the mid 1940s it was one of the four leading black newspapers in the country, along with The Pittsburgh Courier, The Afro-American, and The Chicago Defender.
The Amsterdam News was named after the avenue on which James H. Anderson lived, in the black community once known as San Juan Hill, and the first issues of the paper were created out of his home at 132 West 65th Street. The business offices were relocated to Harlem in 1910. During this early period, between the 1910s and '20s, renowned black journalists such as T. Thomas Fortune wrote for and edited the paper.
In 1926, Sadie Warren, the wife of Edward Warren, one of The Amsterdam News' first publishers, purchased the paper. It was resold on January 10, 1936 to two West Indian physicians, Clelan Bethan Powell and Phillip M. H. Savory, who served respectively as editor-publisher and secretary-treasurer. Under their management, the now semi-weekly paper became the first African American newspaper to have all of its departments unionized. During this period, the paper began to focus on not only local, but national events as well. Many prominent African Americans including W.E.B. Du Bois, Roy Wilkins, and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., contributed columns and articles to The Amsterdam News. Marvel Cooke, who began her journalistic career during the Harlem Renaissance, joined the staff, becoming the paper's first female news reporter.
The Amsterdam News championed numerous civil rights causes. During World War II it joined forces with other black papers to fight for civil rights in the armed forces. In the 1950's and '60s The Amsterdam News was at the forefront in chronicling the events of the civil rights movement such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama, the Freedom Riders bus burning incident, and numerous riots.