The AFRO knows what it’s like to endure challenging times. John H. Murphy, Sr., a former enslaved man founded the AFRO 130 years ago with $200 from his wife, Martha Howard Murphy. Together they created a platform to offer images and stories of hope to advance their community. The AFRO provides readers with good news about the Black community not otherwise found.
Two years before his death, Murphy in a letter to his sons further details the mission and purpose of the AFRO:
“A newspaper succeeds because its management believes in itself, in God and in the present generation. It must always ask itself –
Whether it has kept faith with the common people;
Whether it has no other goal except to see that their liberties are preserved and their future assured;
Whether it is fighting to get rid of slums to provide jobs for everybody;
Whether it stays out of politics except to expose corruption and condemn injustice, race prejudice and the cowardice of compromise.
The Afro-American must become a semi-weekly, then a tri-weekly and eventually when advertising warrants, a daily.
It has always had a loyal constituency which believes it to be honest, decent and progressive. It is that kind of newspaper now, and I hope that it never changes.
It is to these high hopes and goals of achievement that the people who make your AFRO have dedicated themselves. God willing, they shall not fail.”
-John H. Murphy, Sr.
Today the AFRO is led by 4th and 5th generation descendants of John H. Murphy Sr. With your much-needed support (Thank you donors and members), we can continue to bring news and information about the community for another 130 years and beyond, and in the immediate future keep our readers informed with our comprehensive COVID-19 coverage.
The Afro-American has crusaded for racial equality and economic advancement for Black Americans for 130 years. In existence since August 13, 1892, John Henry Murphy Sr., a former slave who gained freedom following the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, started the paper when he merged his church publication, The Sunday School Helper with two other church publications, The Ledger (owned by George F. Bragg of Baltimore’s St. James Episcopal Church) and The Afro-American (published by Reverend William M. Alexander, pastor of Baltimore’s Sharon Baptist Church). By 1922, Murphy had evolved the newspaper from a one-page weekly church publication into the most widely circulated black paper along the coastal Atlantic and used it to challenge Jim Crow practices in Maryland. Following Murphy’s death on April 5, 1922, his five sons, each of whom had been trained in different areas of the newspaper business, continued to manage The Afro-American. Two of his sons, Carl and Arnett Murphy, served respectively as editor-publisher and advertising director.
The Afro-American rose to national prominence while under the editorial control of Carl Murphy. He served as its editor-publisher for 45 years. The newspaper was circulated in Baltimore, with regional editions circulated in Washington, D.C. twice weekly and in Philadelphia, Richmond, and Newark, once a week. At one time there were as many as 13 editions circulated across the country. The Afro-American’s status as a black paper circulating in several predominantly black communities endowed it with the ability to profoundly affect social change on a national scale.
“During World War II, The Afro-American stationed several of its reporters in Europe, the Aleutians, Africa, Japan, and other parts of the South Pacific, and provided its readers with first hand coverage of the war. ”
Carl Murphy used the editorial pages of The Afro-American to push for the hiring of African Americans by Baltimore’s police and fire departments; to press for black representation in the legislature; and for the establishment of a state supported university to educate African Americans.
In the 1930’s The Afro-American launched a successful campaign known as “The Clean Block” campaign which is still in existence today. The campaign developed into an annual event and was aimed at improving the appearance of, and reducing crime in, inner-city neighborhoods. The Afro-American also campaigned against the Southern Railroad’s use of Jim Crow cars, and fought to obtain equal pay for Maryland’s black schoolteachers.
During World War II, The Afro-American stationed several of its reporters in Europe, the Aleutians, Africa, Japan, and other parts of the South Pacific, and provided its readers with firsthand coverage of the war. One of its reporters (and Carl Murphy’s daughter), Elizabeth Murphy Phillips Moss, was the first black female correspondent.
The Afro-American collaborated with The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on numerous civil rights cases. In the 1950s the newspaper joined forces with the NAACP in the latter’s suit against the University of Maryland Law School for its segregationist admission policies. Their combined efforts eventually led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision outlawing segregated public schools. The Afro-American also supported actor/singer Paul Robeson and sociologist W.E.B. DuBois during the anti-Communist campaigns of the Joseph McCarthy era.
The Afro-American has employed many notable black journalists and intellectuals including Langston Hughes, William Worthy and J. Saunders Redding. In the mid 1930s it became the first black newspaper to employ a female sportswriter when it hired Lillian Johnson and Nell Dodson to serve on its staff. Renowned artist Romare Bearden began his career as a cartoonist at The Afro-American in 1936.
Sam Lacy, who was hired as the paper’s sports editor in 1943 and who, at the age of 94, still wrote a weekly column for the paper, used his weekly ” A to Z” column to campaign for integration in professional sports. Using their writing to protest racial inequities in professional sports, Lacy and sports writers such as Wendell Smith of The Pittsburgh Courier helped to open doors for black athletes. Following the death of Carl Murphy in 1967, his daughter Frances L. Murphy II served as chairman and publisher. In 1974, John Murphy III, Carl’s nephew, was appointed chairman and eventually became the publisher.
Fourth generation members of the Murphy family, John “Jake” Oliver, Jr. and now Pastor Frances “Toni” Draper with a governing board of family and community members, manage the paper in recent years.
Dr. Frances “Toni” Draper has been a community leader in her home, Baltimore, for decades, with leadership positions in journalism, a church she founded and education.
In February 2018, she was named chairman of the board and publisher of the AFRO American Newspapers, which was founded in 1892 by her great-grandfather. She served previously as president of the company from 1987 to 1999.
In 2002, She became the founding pastor of the Freedom Temple African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in south Baltimore. She received a Doctor of Ministry degree in preaching and leadership from the United Theological Seminary in Ohio in 2006. Her bachelor’s degree in Spanish language education in 1969 is from Morgan State University and served on the university’s Board of Regents for 24 years before stepping down last June.
She also holds a master’s degrees in education, business administration and pastoral counseling. Her mother, Frances L. Murphy II, helped inspire her to be a community leader. She encouraged her to honor God, treat people the way you want to be treated and surround yourself with younger people who can keep you up to date on the latest trends and technologies.
Now it’s her turn to inspire the younger generation. She often tells her grandchildren that it’s important to give back to the community because many people need a genuine hand up or a simple word of encouragement, in order to survive and thrive. When people are healthy economically, socially and spiritually, communities are healthy.
Lenora is an advertising and marketing executive with more than 30 years of experience training, coaching, and leading sales teams to success. She began her career at The Philadelphia Inquirer and later was recruited to head up The Baltimore Sun’s first advertising telemarketing team. During her tenure at The Sun, she received several honors and awards, including the Tribune Corporation’s Value Award. In 2006 she founded LH&G, a sales, marketing, and customer-service training firm for small and medium-size businesses. Lenora joined The AFRO in 2012. As Executive Director, she helps lead the company’s strategic direction and oversees print, digital, and social media advertising and sponsorship initiatives. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Temple University and master’s degree in Business Administration and Management from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.
Rev Dorothy Boulware, Managing Editor
Our current editorial team is led by Rev. Dorothy Boulware. Rev. Boulware calls herself a Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, Evangelical, non-denominational retired pastor, retired newspaper editor, former minister of music, former BCPD fingerprint technician, wife of 51 years, mother of four, grandmother of five, great grandmother of two. Yes it’s a run-on sentence, but it gets the job done efficiently.
She’s spent most of her life in Baltimore, MD where she was born, but has retired to Lancaster PA and, surprise (actually she was surprised) she has become a published author several times over, all of which are available on her website, DorothyScottBoulware.com or via Amazon.
Her undergraduate degree in English with a journalism minor is from Coppin State University in Baltimore and her graduate work, a master of divinity is from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. Even at retirement age, Rev. Boulware finds herself at a place without limitations that affords her every opportunity to grow to be a blessing!