Frances L. Murphy, I (pictured at lower right) launched AFRO Clean Block in 1934 to beautify the city, and to engage schoolchildren throughout the summer. (AFRO Archives)

By Savannah Wood
Afro Charities Executive Director

Afro Charities was founded in 1963 to administer Mrs. Santa & AFRO Clean Block, two long-standing programs that have positively impacted generations of Baltimore and DC residents. In 2019, we expanded our mission to include preservation of the 130-year-old AFRO American Newspapers’ extensive archives. 

Through new programming like last year’s Close Read exhibition, our publication To the Front: Black Women & the Vote, and our occasional conversation series Re-Reading the News, we are bringing this collection to life and illustrating its relevance to both traditional and non-traditional scholars. 

With support from the Bainum Family Foundation and the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, students at Coppin Academy will be among the first in Baltimore City Public Schools to critically engage with the archives through our pilot education program. These student fellows will conduct original research and create new written and multimedia content throughout the spring semester. The best of their work will be published on the AFRO’s digital and physical platforms. 

Early next year, we will begin digitizing the AFRO’s estimated 3 million photographs, and implementing new access tools to bring these images to the public. This initiative is supported by a $535k grant from #StartSmall, Jack Dorsey’s philanthropic initiative.

Finally, we are creating a permanent, state-of-the-art home and research center for the collection at West Baltimore’s historic Upton Mansion. We are thrilled to share that just last week, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded us $1.5M towards this redevelopment project. This support is complemented by a $250k grant from Maryland’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

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