By U.S. Representative Kweisi Mfume (MD-7),
Special to the AFRO
For 130 years, the AFRO-American Newspaper has been the eyes, ears, and voice of our community. On the anniversary of its founding, we celebrate the irreplaceable role this publication has played in documenting our history, telling our story, and speaking truth to power.
The newspaper was founded in 1892 by John H. Murphy Sr., who was born into slavery and honorably served this country in the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War. Upon returning from military service, Mr. Murphy became active in Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland. His work for the church’s printed publication led to the establishment of The AFRO-American where the publication’s motto became “A Champion of Civic Welfare and the Square Deal.”
130 years later, we remember and proudly acknowledge Mr. Murphy’s immense dedication to challenging the racial injustice he witnessed in Baltimore and building that same mission into the fabric of the newspaper, which multiple generations of the Murphy family could build.
From pushing to hire more Black teachers in “colored schools” to tackling crime through education and advocacy, the newspaper has built a legendary legacy of championing critical issues affecting our communities and has made a tremendous impact on the lives of countless Black Americans.
But most importantly, we must not forget that at the crux of all the social issues the AFRO took up was the need for political advancement and engagement.
The newspaper has always taken seriously its responsibility to educate the larger African American community on the political environment in which we live. Black political leaders have used this influential publication for decades to voice their opinions on critical issues and implore Black voters to be civically engaged in order to address the many injustices that plagued them. Without this essential platform, we may have never bore witness to some of the most iconic Black political leaders that have shaped and advanced our communities over the past century.
Like so many others, my personal affection and respect for the publication runs deep. As a youngster, I made my spending money delivering the AFRO-American Newspaper to my neighbors. I felt tremendous pride and power associated with the company’s logo on my canvas delivery bag even at a young age, and I still feel that same pride each time I pick up a paper or go online to read it.
While many publications have downsized or gone out of business over the last 25 years for not having kept up with the challenges posed by internet and digital technology, the AFRO instead adapted, innovated and continued its legacy.
In total, engagement between the print edition and the digital, web and social media platforms, the AFRO-American Newspaper now reaches over 1.5 million consumers weekly.
To AFRO Publisher Dr. Frances “Toni” Draper, the Board of Directors and the Murphy family, we owe all of you a special debt of gratitude for upholding the Murphy family legacy of challenging America to be a more perfect union. The AFRO-American Newspaper is an iconic institution that we are duty bound to protect, and may it continue to be our voice for generations to come.
Congressman Kweisi Mfume (D-MD-7) is a representative for District 7 of Maryland.
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