Originally Published on BET.com.
Since the founding of the Freedom’s Journal, the first African-American owned and operated newspaper in 1827, Black Americans have used the power of the press to voice their unique experiences. Newspapers sprung up nationally over the years covering issues such as slavery, lynching, civil rights, elections and present-day discrimination issues.
John J. Oliver Jr., 68, publisher of the Afro-American, a weekly Black newspaper covering the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., area, grew up watching the inner workings of the long-standing publication his great-grandfather John H. Murphy Sr., a former slave, founded in 1892. Oliver has been responsible for ushering the company and other Black newspapers into the present digital age.
“It was a place that had big machines that made a lot of noise with a lot of people doing a lot of different things,” Oliver told BET.com of his early memories of the newspaper’s Baltimore office. “And I guess I felt somewhat intimidated. But I was very curious about why they were doing what they were doing and why it made so much noise. I was fascinated by the press room,” he continued.