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.
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”.
The purpose of the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award is threefold:
Once all nominations are received, the selection committee recommends finalists for the award on the basis of:
Nominees must be reporting for a U.S.-based outlet. Nominations should be sent to [email protected].
Martin Kaiser, chair
editor and senior vice president, retired, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
global investigations editor, Associated Press
Aminda Marques Gonzales
executive editor and vice president, Miami Herald
Matt Apuzzo ’00
investigative correspondent, The New York Times
senior vice president and editorial director, NPR
editorial page editor, LA Times
producer, PBS FRONTLINE
Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology, Colby College
David A. Greene
president, Colby College
vice president and secretary, Colby College
executive director, Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs, Colby College
Eric S. Rosengren ’79, P’12
chair, Colby Board of Trustees
vice president and chief of staff, Colby College
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