“December 23, 1909
My dear Mr. Murphy:
I have just read your very generous editorial bearing upon my new book, “The Story of the Negro.” I thank you for all that you have said.
Booker T. Washington
If the spirit moves you at some time, I wish you might say a word in your paper concerning the importance of putting this or some similar history in the Negro schools. We are the only race on earth that does not study the history of our own people. I suspect that if you were to go into the Negro public schools of Baltimore that you would find your children with copies of books in their hands containing the history of White Americans, the English, the Germans and the French, but not a book will you find there containing a history of our own race. This weakness should be corrected speedily. I am constantly grateful to you for the many good things you say in your paper concerning me.
Yours Very truly,
Booker T. Washington “
When Booker T. Washington wrote this letter to my great grandfather John H. Murphy Sr., founder of the AFRO American Newspapers, the AFRO was a mere 17 years old. The year was 1909, 16 months after the race riots in Springfield, Ill that prompted W.E.B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell and others to establish the NAACP; another time of great tension in the United States. Then, just like now, very little (if any) African-American history was taught in the public schools. And, like today, the AFRO and other Black newspapers were among the few trusted sources of accurate information about our communities. Murphy, a former enslaved man, who served as a non-commissioned officer in the Civil War, was determined to gather and publish news about and for African Americans. He also was determined to build a successful business so that he could hire and train Black journalists—many of whom went on to stellar careers in other media.
And while the AFRO’s production and distribution methods have changed – from hot type, to cold type, to digital and social media — we’re still here. Here to plead our own cause. Here to tell our own stories. Here to highlight our many accomplishments. Here to speak truth to power. Here to support African-American businesses. Here to advocate for economic justice for all. Here to not just set, but to keep the record straight. We are not flawed. We are not less than. We are not inherently violent or ignorant. We are made in the image and likeness of God. And. We. Are. Still. Here.
While some of the articles and pictures in this Special Section may be disturbing, so is a country where African Americans are still routinely discriminated against and marginalized. As the longest continuously published (by the same family) Black newspaper in the United States, the AFRO will continue to tell our stories – past and present—as we advocate for full citizenship and unfettered opportunities for African Americans.
Thanks to our managing editor, Dorothy Boulware, and her team for researching, curating and writing the articles for this Special Section. Thanks to the director of AFRO Archives and fifth generation Murphy family member, Savannah Wood, who always provides the perfect historical touches for our special coverage. We also appreciate our thousands of faithful readers and subscribers and advertisers.
AFRO’s publisher and CEO, Dr. Frances M. Draper. (Courtesy Photo)
Frances Murphy Draper (Toni)
P.S. Be on the lookout for a Special Edition on August 15. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss ways that your company can participate.