Who, except you the publishers, have the ear and the confidence of your town and state to the extent that there is scarcely a community project, large or small, which is not first discussed with you by the leaders, who value your counsel and support?

     The speaker advised his listeners, in the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, that "you have nothing to fear but fear itself" and admonished them to exercise spartan courage and rigid standards in the selection of the contents of their newspapers. Social integration would point up certain racial needs, not eliminate them. Murphy anticipated that the end of Southern segregation would continue a need for "many colored institutions, including our weekly newspapers." Witness, he declared, the 83 agencies then operated by the Hebrew Community Fund on a projected budget of $20 million in New York City alone, where Jews were integrated.

     The confidence of the mid-century Carl Murphy was more than a one-season crop. At the close of the first World War the founding Murphy, John, in a letter to his sons, instructed his heirs to step the weekly Afro-American up first to a semi-weekly, then a tri-weekly, and "eventually, when advertising warrants, a daily." But, on February 8, 1996 the Richmond Afro-American/Planet published its last issue, reducing the once proud chain to only two papers: the Baltimore and Washington Afro-Americans. Not only had the publishing operation failed to realize the founder’s dream of becoming a daily organ, but the ravages of competition, declining advertising revenue and skyrocketing cost of newsprint had taken their toll on the venerable Negro institution.

     At the same time, however, Tracey G. Jeter, the company’s advertising and operations manager, proclaimed that the Afro-American was to become the first black-owned publication to launch a Web site on the Internet and hoped to expand its electronic information services, including a national job listing for Negro professionals and archival coverage of Black history events and achievements.1 The move echoed Carl Murphy’s declaration that the Black press had the "facility to change" with the times.

Common Cause: The Future Beckons

     The Black press was born out of a need: the need of the Negro American for information about himself. He was not getting it in the dailies and weeklies of the l820s. The church, word-of-mouth, and occasional letters were his only means of learning about fellow Blacks in his own city or elsewhere.


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February 2000