By AFRO Staff
Frances L. Murphy, II, publisher emeritus of the Washington AFRO-AMERICAN Newspapers was enshrined this week by the National Newspaper Publisher’s Association (NNPA) as one of two Black outstanding newspaper publishers to be enshrined into the Gallery of Distinguished Black Publishers. The historic event took place on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C., and was hosted by the historic Metropolitan AME Church.
Today, the AFRO grows and thrives from the era of Murphy’s. leadership. A retired associate professor of journalism at Howard University, she was a trailblazing journalist and publisher who dedicated her life to serving her community through sharing Black news, stories and excellence.
Ms. Murphy, a 1940 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, earned her Bachelor’s in journalism in 1944 at the University of Wisconsin, where she attended on a full four-year scholarship from the State of Maryland. The scholarship was granted by the state to prevent Black students from attending the University of Maryland.
She also earned a B.S. from Coppin State College (now University) and M.Ed. from the Johns Hopkins University. In addition, she studied in London at the University of Southampton.
For most of her life she enjoyed two professions—working at the AFRO-AMERICAN Newspapers founded by her grandfather, John H. Murphy, Sr. in 1892, and teaching. She began her newspaper career at the Baltimore AFRO-AMERICAN, went on to head the Richmond AFRO-AMERICAN, later the Washington AFRO-AMERICAN and served the company as its board chair from 1972 to 1974.
In 1986, she returned to the Washington AFRO as publisher and retired in 1999, an event duly noted by Cong. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) in the Congressional Record.
Ms. Murphy believed the AFRO belonged to the community and thus she promoted participatory journalism. As publisher of the Washington AFRO, she annually invited readers to write their own family histories and send them in complete with historical pictures. These histories were published during Black History month in February.
She also developed a “List of Tops” of everything from teachers to dentists, lawyers, doctors, stores, etc. Readers willingly submitted names for these lists which were published annually. In addition, she revived the AFRO’s children’s page.
When she retired as Washington publisher emeritus in 1999, she was appointed as editorial page editor of both the Baltimore and Washington AFRO-AMERICAN Newspapers. She wrote most of the editorials until 2006. In September 2003, she began to write the column “If You Ask Me” – a column started by her late sister Elizabeth Murphy Moss for some 50 years because their mother, the late Vashti Turley Murphy, wanted to read some “good news” in the paper. Here again, in addition to writing about events she attended, she also encouraged readers to send in their own news which she edited and put into her column.
Ms. Murphy is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who Among Black Americans and Who’s Who of American Women and in 2003, she was interviewed by The History Makers. A few days before her death, she was granted a two-hour leave by her doctors at Sinai Hospital to attend the Black Sorority Project’s screening of The Exodus which documents the founding of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Frances L. Murphy died November 21 2007 at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, Md. after a brief illness.