By Fatiha Belfakir,
Special to the AFRO
Intertwined at the core, the AFRO will never cease coverage of the Black church.
In fact, the AFRO American Newspaper was born in 1892 when John Henry Murphy Sr. merged three church publications in Baltimore. The former slave and Union soldier combined his Sunday School Helper, George F. Bragg’s paper, The Ledger, from St. James Episcopal Church and The AFRO, an offering from the pastor of Sharon Baptist Church, Reverend William M. Alexander.
In April 1893 Alexander was editor-in-chief of the paper. He regularly included coverage of church meetings and happenings, to include religious conferences, weddings and the work of the church in the Black community and of missionaries in Africa abroad.
On Apr. 29, 1893 the AFRO reported on a controversial proposal within the General Assembly of the Southern Presbyterian Church to set up a separate denomination “for their colored members.” The AFRO quoted F.L. Leeper, a leader in the Southern Presbyterian Church, as saying that “the political party or church that proposes to comingle these races will in the South find itself without White members.”
Happenings within the church were regularly featured- especially when it came to civil rights and freedom. Historically, African American houses of worship have served as meeting grounds to plan and carry out improvements to community, family and self.
Most importantly however, the AFRO recorded into history how the church played a pivotal role in the rise of political, human and civil right movements.
In 1914, the NAACP was using the Concord Baptist Church as a meeting ground to plan the next steps in gaining equal treatment under the law.
In May 1930 the AFRO covered bishops of the A.M.E. church in a political battle during the Hoover administration.
And time and time again there was coverage of churches being burnt to the ground in efforts to wipe out the hopes and dreams of congregants urging the community to become involved in the fight for equality and human decency.
The AFRO American Newspapers has allowed readers to take an inside look at the evolution of the African church on a week by week basis.
Today the AFRO reports on everything from Baltimore clergy members uniting to increase Black voter participation at the New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore to Eid-Al- Fitr celebrations in the Muslim community.
As African-American churches continue to shape Black life, the AFRO team will be there witnessing its effect on the new wave of Black activists, residents and policy makers.
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