Afro-American Newspaper Celebrates 120 Years Of Service

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Ron Matz is an Emmy award-winning reporter who joined the Eyewitness...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—It first appeared in print in 1892.Over the years it’s covered world wars, civil rights and the election of the nation’s first black president.

Ron Matz reports on the celebration at the Afro-American and a milestone for a newspaper that’s an important part of Baltimore.

It’s a busy day for Clarence Massey. He’s delivering the Afro-American’s special 120th anniversary edition.

“We’re a small company, but we’re worldwide. Everybody knows about the Afro. It’s a privilege to get it out there,” said Massey, Afro-American circulation manager.

The Afro’s archives run deep, stories from Baltimore to local politics and worldwide events. Publisher Jake Oliver says it’s been an amazing 120 years.

“One hundred twenty years is quite an accomplishment. When you dig under the surface, to get a sense of how this paper had to adapt to its environment, it makes the achievement of 120 years even more amazing,” said Oliver, Afro-American publisher & CEO.

He says heavyweight champ Joe Louis was a towering figure. But two of the most influential people the Afro covered were Booker T. Washington and former Baltimore City Mayor Kurt Schmoke.

“Booker T. Washington had an impact on everyone. He created a bridge between the two races. He was the first major person we covered in the turn of the century,” Oliver said. “Kurt Schmoke’s election changed everything in the city. It was the first time the voting power of the black community really manifested itself into something that was visible.”

One of the cornerstones of the Afro was legendary sports editor Sam Lacy, who worked there for more than 60 years.

The Afro was established “in the basement of the Sharon Baptist Church, and it was the result of a need being recognized that there wasn’t a publication for the black community,” Oliver said.

The doors to the future for the Afro-American are wide open.

“It’s going to become multi-language, multi-ethnic,” Oliver said. “It’s going to be more a paper of the world, and that’s the direction I think we’re going and we’re very excited about that.”

“To have a black paper in the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland for 120 years is a great thing. There’s not many papers out there. They’re going out of business, and the Afro is still here,” Massey said.

The Afro-American is published weekly. You can read old editions of the Afro by clicking here.

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