AFRO Clean Block was one of the earliest community initiatives in the history of the Afro-American Newspapers started by Ms. Frances L. Murphy I, daughter of the AFRO’s founder, John H. Murphy Sr in 1934.
Clean Block was a program created to get the children of Baltimore involved in the community during the summer. Any child could be appointed as block captain and, after registering their block at the AFRO headquarters on 628 Eutaw Street in Baltimore, he or she was responsible for coordinating and organizing their neighbors. The newspaper would contribute cleaning supplies like brooms, trashcans, and trashbags to make the effort a success.
Traditionally, the contest ran from the end of the school year in June, until the beginning of the new school year in September.
From its inception, Clean Block became more than just a contest; it became an expression of pride among neighbors and neighborhoods. City blocks were treated with adornments like American flags, flower boxes in windows, and painted steps. Every week the AFRO printed the names of newly registered block captains and streets, and monitored their progress throughout the summer.
Contest winners were determined by AFRO appointed judges, who would patrol neighborhoods block by block and observe the changes within the community. At the end of the summer, all block captains and participants were invited to the closing ceremonies, which were often held at local theatres and halls.
Winners of the contest received cash prizes, trips, and the prestige of leading their block to victory.