The newspaper that for 125 years has focused on informing and igniting African American communities around the country got its start on August 13, 1892.

The early AFRO-American Newspaper was edited by the Rev. William Alexander, founding pastor of the Patterson Avenue/Sharon Baptist Church, originally located on the corner of Presstman and Carey Streets in Baltimore, Md. Alexander.  Alexander, a member of the Black elite from Richmond, Va., was passionate about the progress of the “race” and sought to educate the masses by publishing a weekly newspaper.

In 1897, the newspaper was sold to John H. Murphy, Sr. for $200, which is the equivalent of over $5,000 in today’s dollars.

John Henry Murphy, Sr. was born a slave in Baltimore, Md. on Christmas Day in 1840 to Benjamin Murphy III, a whitewasher and Susan Colby Murphy, a housewife. The young Murphy signed up for President Lincoln’s call for Black volunteers to fight in the Civil War and was eventually granted freedom under the Maryland Emancipation in 1863. Newly emancipated, Murphy would follow in the family whitewashing business and in 1868 marry Martha E. Howard. Howard was the daughter of Enoch George Howard and Sarah Griffith Howard, a prosperous farming and landowning family west of Baltimore city.

John and Martha gave birth to eleven children (ten survived) in birth order: Eva Susanna, George Benjamin, Harriett Elizabeth, Maria Lavinia (Lillian), Martha Frances Louise, Mary Rose Allen, John Henry, Jr., Daniel Thomas Howard, Grace Melvina, Carl James Greenbury, and David Wesley Arnett. In an effort to unite the Maryland AME church congregations, he started his newspaper, the Sunday School Helper, which would then evolve into a second newspaper venture, the Race Standard.

His good friend and benefactor, the Rev. George F. Bragg, Jr. was also no stranger to the newspaper business. Bragg himself had founded several news weeklies and religious journals for the African American community in Virginia and Maryland. It was his position as rector of St. James Episcopal Church that brought him to Maryland, where in 1898, he founded his own newspaper, The Ledger a competitor of the AFRO. The Ledger ran successfully for almost two years but Bragg quickly realized that managing the publication of a newspaper was more overwhelming than anticipated. On January 1, 1900, the Ledger merged with Murphy’s The AFRO-American to become The AFRO-American Ledger. The AFRO-American Ledger in August 1907 re-incorporated itself into the Afro-American Company.

John H. Murphy, Sr. and his children ran the newspaper into prosperous territory. With the AFRO’s national importance and prominence, John H. Murphy in 1913 was elected president of the National Negro Press Association (the predecessor of the National Newspapers Publishers Association).

During the first two decades of the 20th century, the paper flourished in an era of unprecedented violence against African American communities. The AFRO consistently reported on the race riots and lynchings that were proliferating all across the country, North and South.  When the country entered World War I, the AFRO also documented the Black troop and American participation in the war through an African American lens. This perspective led to an even greater growth in the newspaper’s circulation across America and the world.