Milton Robinson: Editor and Minister

Front page of Harris Herald

The North Carolina Collection recently acquired 18 issues of The Harris Herald, a paper founded by Milton Bernidine Robinson, Sr. in 1946. In exploring the history of this African-American newspaper from Rutherford County, we learned about Robinson, a man of talent and achievement.

Born in Forest City in 1913, Robinson was orphaned at a relatively young age. Upon finishing elementary school, but with a high school education not available to him and other African Americans locally, he went to work. At various times in his life Robinson would work as a teacher, farmer, brickmason, Pullman porter, and school bus driver. But today he may be best remembered as a minister and editor.

Ambitious and energetic, Robinson ventured into the world of journalism with the The Harris Herald. Seeking to serve the African-American community in Rutherford County and the nearby area, he began publishing the four-page monthly newspaper “for the purpose of keeping our people informed about current issues of the day, together with article and column by some of our best informed people. … This paper is your friend and seeks at all times to help you solve your problems.” Robinson edited and published the paper until early 1949. Later that year he was ordained a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the first of many leadership positions he would subsequently fill for the denomination. In midlife, he enrolled in Johnson C. Smith University, receiving his A.B. degree in 1963. In 1967, he earned a masters in education administration from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Having whetted his appetite for journalism with The Harris Herald and having become a much respected leader in the A.M.E. Zion Church, the Reverend Robinson was appointed editor of the church’s Star of Zion newspaper, published in Charlotte.

Reverend Robinson’s daughters—Phyllis Robinson Washburn, Annie Robinson Jones, and Evelyn Robinson Mercer—generously donated their copies of the Harris Herald to the North Carolina Collection. Before this donation, only a few issues of the newspaper were available on microfilm. All 18 known issues have now been digitized and made freely available online to the public by the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center in Wilson Library.