Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award for Courage in Journalism - Goldfarb Center

Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award for Courage in Journalism

The Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award of Colby, established in 1952, is awarded to a journalist who continues the Lovejoy heritage of fearlessness and commitment to American freedom of the press. The award is granted annually to a member of the press, regardless of title, who, in the opinion of selection committee members, has contributed to the country’s journalistic achievement.

Elijah Parish Lovejoy was born in Albion, Maine, Nov. 9, 1802, the son of a Congregational minister. He graduated in 1826 from Waterville College (now Colby), where he was valedictorian and class poet.

At age 29 he entered the Princeton Theological Seminary. While there he was persuaded to return to Missouri to launch a religious newspaper, the St. Louis Observer. He was named editor. Lovejoy wrote moderately about slavery, and his views were at first acceptable in Missouri, a slave state. As fear of slave uprisings increased, an incident occurred during which a freed man was trapped and killed. When the mob leaders were freed by the court, Lovejoy vehemently criticized the decision. His press was destroyed and his home burglarized.

He moved across the river to the free state of Illinois, where he believed he could write without fear. When his press was shipped to Alton, however, thugs smashed it at the dock. Local citizens raised money for a new press, and Lovejoy published successfully for a year. His position on slavery hardened, and on July 6, 1837, he published another editorial condemning the practice. That night his press was again destroyed. He bought another, which was also destroyed. Friends then organized a militia and secretly bought and installed another press.

Elijah Lovejoy

The Story of Lovejoy

America’s First Martyr to Freedom of the Press

Lovejoy - Militia

On the night of Nov. 7, 1837, a mob attacked the new press. The militia fought back, killing one. The mob eventually set fire to the building, drove out the militia. Lovejoy was shot and killed as he attempted to extinguish the blaze.

He was buried Nov. 9, his 35th birthday. John Quincy Adams called him the “first American martyr to the freedom of the press and the freedom of the slave.”

On Sept. 29, 2000, Lovejoy was inducted into the Maine Press Hall of Fame.

Listen to an engaging conversation with Ken Ellingword, author of First to Fall, a book about the legacy of Elijah Lovejoy on National Public Radio’s (NPR) “Morning Edition”.

Award Mission and Criteria​

The purpose of the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award is threefold: 

  1. To honor and preserve the memory of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, America’s first martyr to freedom of the press and a Colby College graduate (valedictorian, Class of 1826) who died bravely rather than forsake his editorial principles.
  2. To stimulate and honor the kind of achievement in the field of reporting, editing, and interpretive writing that continues the Lovejoy heritage of fearlessness and freedom.
  3. To promote a sense of mutual responsibility and cooperative effort between a news industry devoted to journalistic freedom and a liberal arts college dedicated to academic freedom.

Once all nominations are received, the selection committee recommends finalists for the award on the basis of:

  1. Integrity, without which no news organization can function in its traditional role as a public servant.
  2. Craftsmanship, without which no one can succeed as a journalist.
  3. Character, intelligence, and courage.
  4. Potential of the work to stimulate engaging campus conversations around important issues of our times.

Nominees must be reporting for a U.S.-based outlet. Nominations should be sent to [email protected].

Current Lovejoy Selection Committee Members

Martin Kaiser, chair 
editor and senior vice president, retired, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Ron Nixon 
global investigations editor, Associated Press

Aminda Marques Gonzales
executive editor and vice president, Miami Herald 

Matt Apuzzo ’00
investigative correspondent, The New York Times

Nancy Barnes
senior vice president and editorial director, NPR

Sewell Chan
editorial page editor, LA Times

Marcela Gaviria

Neil Gross
Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology, Colby College

Ex-Officio Members

David A. Greene
president, Colby College

Richard Uchida
vice president and secretary, Colby College

Kimberly Flowers
executive director, Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs, Colby College

Eric S. Rosengren ’79, P’12
chair, Colby Board of Trustees

Lovejoy Selection Committee Secretary

Ruth Jackson
vice president and chief of staff, Colby College
4600 Mayflower Hill
Watervillle, Maine 04901
[email protected]

Past Recipients