If the masses suppressed your voice, how would you express yourself? Would you write in a journal? Would you express yourself through paintings? Either option gives you the power to express yourself, which as humans, we love to do. It's also very much needed nowadays; writing and expression are necessary for mental clarity.
The written word will always have an impact.
Today, I want to discuss the importance of the Black press. After 1865, the number of newspapers grew due to emancipation. Education was denied to African-Americans, so it became a key to equity and progress. Newspapers were a sign of freedom and a way to educate the Black community. Black newspapers established authority and fought against generalized narratives. The North Star by Frederick Douglas is the Black owned newspaper that comes to most people minds. But, we will not be touching on that influential newspaper today.
Instead, we're taking a "bop" to my hometown, Baltimore, Maryland. In Baltimore, a "bop" is slang for a long walk. So, let's take a walk on 2519 North Charles Street. This street is home of the former offices of the Afro-American Newspaper (on the left) and The Baltimore Times (on the right).
Below is an image of the Afro-American headquarters before its new paint job. The new and improved building is now the headquarters for the archives.
The Baltimore-Afro Newspaper, locally known as The Afro or Afro news, was founded in 1892 by Henry Murphy Sr.
“John Henry Murphy Sr., a former slave who gained freedom following the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, started the paper when he merged his church publication, The Sunday School Helper with two other church publications, The Ledger (owned by George F. Bragg of Baltimore’s St. James Episcopal Church) and The Afro-American (published by Reverend William M. Alexander, pastor of Baltimore’s Sharon Baptist Church). By 1922, Murphy had evolved the newspaper from a one-page weekly church publication into the most widely circulated black paper along the coastal Atlantic and used it to challenge Jim Crow practices in Maryland.”
The Afro-Newspaper has uplifted, educated, and empowered the Black community in Baltimore for over 120 years. Fourth generation members are managing the paper along with help from community and board members. You can access the archives here. Click here for more on the Afro-Newspaper.
The Baltimore Times
Now, on to the real adventure. As mentioned, 2591 N. North Charles St. is home to the original headquarters of two primary newspapers in Baltimore. The Afro-news headquarters now house the archives and The Baltimore Time headquarters is sadly now an abandoned building…I may or may not have attempted to find a way inside. I was unsuccessful, which is probably a good thing. The building has security cameras all over. This publication is still in operation at a different location.
Here's a snippet from the site that sums up the history and mission.
“Armed with a PC, $732.00 and a passion to tell the real stories— the positive stories— about African Americans, Jocelyn and Peter Bramble pledged to produce a newspaper that would immortalize the achievements, events, and proud moments of a people who were often depicted through negative imagery via the media.
The Baltimore Times was birthed on the Bramble’s kitchen table at 1800 Madison Street in November 1986. Starting out as a monthly publication, the Baltimore Times soon became a newspaper its readers couldn’t do without. Readers depended on it for truthful reporting, articles about their neighbors, family and friends, and quite often themselves…As the Times grew in popularity, the Brambles realized that an expansion was in order, and over time published The Annapolis Times, The Shore Times, The Prince George’s County Times, and The Baltimore County Times.”
Visit The Baltimore Times Archives here. The Baltimore Times is a newspaper I remember watching my grandfather read. I would pick it up once he was finished and imitate his position. I would wear my fake reading glasses and drink my cup of hot chocolate in small sips just a he did. Ah, good Times! The Baltimore Times and The Afro-News are treasures.
Check out this guide to Baltimore History and Food, curated by A Girl In A Museum World.
Do you still read the newspaper?
I drive down this street for work and I’ve never paid attention to these buildings.
I caught myself looking at them on my way to work the other day after reading this. Cool to be that close to history!
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