Big business: how the AFRO has celebrated Black entrepreneurship for 130 years | AFRO American Newspapers

Big business: how the AFRO has celebrated Black entrepreneurship for 130 years | AFRO American Newspapers

By AFRO Staff

As the oldest family-owned, continuously published Black newspaper in the country, the oldest Black-owned business in the State of Maryland, and the 3rd oldest in the country, the AFRO knows a thing or two about Black entrepreneurship and sustainability over time. 

Over the years the AFRO has been a valuable resource for business owners looking to find information on funding, policy or community needs. The paper has been a voice for the Black business community of Baltimore and beyond, serving as much more than just a place to advertise goods and make a sale.

From inception, the AFRO has been a place to learn best practices on operating a business. Wise men and women also used the paper to pass down wisdom on the moral character needed to make a business endeavor successful. 

In August 1895 J.W. Johnson traveled to Baltimore from New York. The paper published his praise of the “Afro- American business enterprise in Baltimore,” specifically the Northwestern Family Supply Company.

Johnson said the Black business landscape of Baltimore had the potential to be the “long sought after avenue that leads to the much talked of Negro independence, Negro liberty and recognition among the nations, not only of America, but the civilized world.”

In 1898 a Black business owner was barred from joining a local association for retail dealers. The AFRO published a piece titled “Business and the Color Line,” calling for equal treatment of Black patrons and Black business owners. The author of the article noted how White store owners should be happy to have Black business “in a city like Baltimore where the 90,000 colored people spend upwards of one hundred thousand dollars in actual cash each week.” 

The AFRO covered protests and sit-ins to desegregate White businesses of the 20th century and the later, the growth and innovation of Black businesses left alone to thrive.

During the South African Apartheid, the AFRO covered how businesses pressured the government to rid themselves of the racism that plagued their society in the 1980s. But smaller, important feats were also covered, such as the 1994 promotion of Robert Steele, the first Black general manager of a hotel in the famed Baltimore Inner Harbor. He was appointed after a clergy-led organization, BUILD, launched a campaign that consolidated efforts to make change. 

In December 2010 the AFRO covered calls to repeal the beverage tax, a church fighting the opening of a liquor store on their block, and the work of the late Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, as he supported legislation to prevent fraudulent businesses from taking advantage of residents. 

Today, the AFRO highlights Black business owners like Esposure CEO, Danny Martin, making a path for Black entrepreneurs in e-sports, and the expansion of African Americans in the hair supply industry.

The AFRO has continuously stood up for and highlighted Black businesses, Black patrons and the power of the Black dollar.

Now managed by sixth generation family members of the Murphy family, the AFRO continues to cover Black businesses and their contribution to the culture and the country.

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This content was originally published here.