Susie Revels Cayton (she/her)

By Christopher Eastman

A drawing of a folded newspaper, "The Seattle Republican."
“Newspaper” by Anonymouse.

Susie Revels Cayton was an African American author, journalist, and later active leader in the Black community during the turn of the twentieth century in Seattle, Washington.

Born Susie Sumner Revels in 1870, she was the daughter of the first Black senator in U.S. history, Hiram Revels. Cayton went to Rust College in Mississippi, later teaching at the College at the age of 16. Cayton met Horace Cayton, and they soon married and moved to Seattle.

In 1894, Horace Cayton launched the Seattle Republican, which ran until 1913. Susie Cayton was a prominent writer for the Republican. Cayton covered news stories as well as wrote short narratives that would be featured within the newspaper. Many of her works intentionally omitted any description of her character’s race, with the intent to create characters both Black and white readers could relate to.

As Cayton continued to speak out against lynchings in the South, advertisers began to pull their ads from the Paper. Cayton wrote, “A colored subscriber wants the paper stopped because ‘it has nothing in it.’ A white subscriber orders his paper discontinued because ‘it has too much colored news in it.’ So between the two, the financier has the devils own time to keep things going” (Revels Cayton, 1906). This was in response to the difficulties of writing a newspaper for a multiracial audience. As advertisers pulled out, the Seattle Republican was forced to fold.

After it folded, Cayton continued to write short stories, now with a focus on the corruption of mankind and the struggle for African Americans. In her short story, The Meeting with the Presence, Cayton wrote, “Then intently I listened. Clearly I could distinguish the different sounds: the cries caused by poverty, discontent and greed; by malice, injustice and immorality and high above them all rose the piercing wails caused by the selfishness of mankind” (Revels Cayton, ed. Diaz, n.d., pg. 63).

As she became more active in the early fight for civil rights, Cayton became an advocate in her participation with the Dorcas Charity Club, which catered to members of the Black community by providing things such as toys for orphans and raising money for windows in Black neighborhoods. She also became the Secretary of the Skid Row Unemployed Council, as well as Vice President of the Negro Workers Council, both Councils focused on improving working conditions, pay, and protections for Black workers.

Cayton’s work as a Black woman in America, during such a time of rising hate and segregation, is inspiring due to her sheer tenacity. Through her utilization of her position of education and influence, she was able to embody the struggle of Black Americans through fictional and nonfictional works.

Susie Revels Cayton died in July of 1943 at the age of 73. In 1992, the Cayton Scholarship was established by the Public Relations Society of America, Puget Sound Chapter. This was to honor both Susie Revels Cayton and Horace Cayton’s legacy. This scholarship is available to minority students pursuing a career in Public Relations in Washington State.


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