Afro America Newspaper

Frances L. Murphy II

( – Black Press matriarch Frances L. Murphy II, called an “Uncrowned Queen,” and known affectionately as “Frankie Lou,” recently died in Baltimore of a rare form of cancer. She was the granddaughter of former slave and Civil War veteran John H. Murphy Sr., who founded the Afro American newspaper in 1892.

Mrs. Murphy grew up in the family business. She delivered papers in her Baltimore neighborhood to customers like author and NAACP founder W.E.B. Du Bois. She worked her way up from reporter to publisher of the Washington Afro American. Mrs. Murphy died Nov. 20. She was 85-years-old.


“She was a member of the Murphy family, but she didn’t act like a family member,” explained Askia Muhammad, news director for WPFW in Washington, D.C., and Final Call senior staff writer. “She acted like a journalist with the same integrity in telling the truth about the Black community. She was quite a role model.”

While many news organizations were writing the sordid details of then Mayor Marion Barry’s run-in with drugs, she chose to write stories that “set the record straight.”

“Yes, we go out of our way to bend over backwards to give him the benefit of the doubt, because so many others are bending the other way,” she said in 1990 at a Capital Press Club forum.

The Afro American is a legendary Black newspaper. It had up to 10 editions around the country. Mrs. Murphy was publisher of the Washington edition. At its height, the Afro, the Chicago Defender, the Pittsburgh Courier and Muhammad Speaks were the major papers of record for the Black community.

“Without the Black press, many of the things that have happened would never have happened. We say that there’s a record of almost everything that went on because of the Black press. And an accurate record,” she said, according to the Washington Post.

John Oliver, publisher and chairman of the board of the Afro, said Mrs. Murphy made a difference in everything she touched. She was also his cousin.

“Mrs. Murphy’s contribution to this newspaper, the world of journalism and the African American community will last well beyond her lifetime,” Mr. Oliver said. “Her action-based news coverage, leadership and community involvement has transformed the culture of news in a way that today’s journalists and journalism students can appreciate.

“As we continue to move this newspaper toward greater community involvement, we will certainly recognize the spirit of Frankie as being very much still with us.”

Mrs. Murphy had three children: the Rev. Frances “Toni” Draper and Dr. James Wood, both of Baltimore, and Susan Barnes of Biloxi, Miss.; and a stepchild, David Campbell of Columbia, Md. She has 17 grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

At age 85, Mrs. Murphy wrote a weekly column called “If You Ask Me.” She was the daughter of Carl and Vashti Turley Murphy, a co-founder of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and a leader in the sorority.

In 1995 while many opposed the Million Man March, she was one of its ardent supporters. She also taught journalism and mentored reporters who went on to work for the Washington Post, the Washington Times, Atlanta Journal Constitution, teach journalism at the college level and have successful careers in public relations.