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Baltimore Afro-American

Baltimore Afro-American

The Baltimore Afro-American, first published in 1892 and now in its second century of continuous publication, is the oldest family-owned black newspaper in America. During its peak years, between the two world wars, the newspaper printed thirteen separate editions from New Jersey to South Carolina and competed with both the Chicago Defender and the Pittsburgh Courier to be the nation's largest African-American paper.

Founded by ex-slave John Henry Murphy, the Afro-American grew from a small, church-based newsletter to the largest black paper on the eastern seaboard, with a circulation that reached over 225,000. After John Murphy died, his son Carl became senior editor and publisher. For nearly forty years, Carl Murphy and the Afro-American never shied from reporting the truths of life in a segregated America.

As early as 1912 the Afro-American addressed the discriminatory practices of the U.S. military. In the late 1930s the paper reported on the early signs of apartheid in South Africa and was soon supporting Thurgood Marshall and the legal battles of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to end school segregation. Throughout these years, numerous articles were devoted to black leaders such as Marcus Garvey, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ralph Bunche, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In addition to providing the news of the day, the Afro-American performed a community service by publishing the births, marriages, and deaths of local African Americans, since these listings were rarely found in the white-owned newspapers of the time. Ironically, the newspaper's gradual decline in circulation in the later decades of the twentieth century was due in part to its success in pressuring the white news media to hire black journalists. In 2005, the Afro-American claimed a readership of more than 120,000.

See also Bunche, Ralph; Chicago Defender ; Du Bois, W. E. B.; Journalism; Garvey, Marcus; King, Martin Luther, Jr.; Marshall, Thurgood; Pittsburgh Courier


Dominguez, Alex. "Afro-American Paper Marking Century of News." Baton Rouge Advocate, August 13, 1992, p. 4C.

Farrar, Hayward. The Baltimore Afro-American, 18921950. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998.

"100 Year Old Black Paper Is Struggling." New York Times, August 23, 1992, p. 28L.

michael a. lord (1996)
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