The Afro-American has crusaded for racial equality and economic advancement for Black Americans for more than a century. In existence since August 13, 1892, 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. Following Murphy's death on April 5, 1922, his five sons, each of whom had been trained in different areas of the newspaper business, continued to manage The Afro-American. Two of his sons, Carl and Arnett Murphy, served respectively as editor-publisher and advertising director.
In the 1930's The Afro-Amerian launched a successful campaign known as "The Clean Block" campaign which is still in existence today. The campaign developed into an annual event and was aimed at improving the appearance of, and reducing crime in, inner-city neighborhoods. The Afro-American also campaigned against the Southern Railroad's use of Jim Crow cars, and fought to obtain equal pay for Maryland's black school teachers.
During World War II, The Afro-American stationed several of its reporters in Europe, the Aleutians, Africa, Japan, and other parts of the South Pacific, and provided its readers with first hand coverage of the war. One of its reporters (and Carl Murphy's daughter), Elizabeth Murphy Phillips Moss, was the first black female correspondent.
The Afro-American collaborated with The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on numerous civil rights cases. In the 1950s the newspaper joined forces with the NAACP in the latter's suit against the University of Maryland Law School for its segregationist admission policies. Their combined efforts eventually led to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 decision outlawing segregated public schools. The Afro-American also supported actor/singer Paul Robeson and sociologist W.E.B. DuBois during the anti-Communist campaigns of the Joseph McCarthy era.
Soemaker, Sandy M. "We Shall Overcome, Someday": The Equal Rights Movement in Baltimore, 1935-1942. Maryland Historical Magazine 1994 89 (3):260 ++.
Farrar, Hayward. See What the Afro Says: The Baltimore Afro-American, 1892-1950. University of Chicago, 1983.
Re: African Americans in Sports:
Lacy, Sam. Seven Olympics and Counting-Reporter to Black America. American Vision 1988 3 (Special Issue): 30-33.