The era of assassinating Black civil rights activists was in full swing by 1967. Medgar Evers was shot and killed in his driveway in 1955; Malcolm X was killed by some members of the Nation of Islam in 1965 while Fred Hampton of the Black Panthers would be killed by the police in 1969. In 1985 activists in MOVE would have a bomb dropped on them in Philadelphia, leaving 11 men, women and children dead.
The Black population, increasingly under pressure and frustrated, would turn to rioting on several occasions in places such as Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago and Pittsburgh following the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Singer Earth Kitt angrily shouted at then President Lyndon Johnson about the ongoing Vietnam War being the cause of the rioting.
Black athletes were increasingly becoming outspoken activists with Muhammad Ali refusing to submit to the draft, Arthur Ashe breaking records on the tennis court and denouncing apartheid in South Africa and Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising gloved fists at the 1968 Olympics.
Notable entertainers such as Louis Armstrong, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye died. AIDS swept through the community starting in the 1980s taking many, including ABC news anchor Max Robinson, and leaving its mark on stars such as Arthur Ashe and Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson and Easy-E.
The crack epidemic would sweep through the community starting in the 1980s, and while the War on Drugs began under President Richard Nixon, the effects of the mandatory minimum sentences applied to crack users would have long standing devastating consequences. Joe Clark, the tough-talking inspiration for the movie “Lean on Me,” became famous for his commitment to students.
Blacks, such as Shirley Chisholm and the Rev. Jessie Jackson, began to seriously attempt to pursue the presidency, which would ultimately culminate in the election of Barack Obama in 2008. In addition, Blacks began to gain electoral power by becoming mayors of major cities and being elected in larger numbers to Congress. In Maryland, Judge Harry Cole was appointed by Gov. Spiro T. Agnew to the Court of Appeals of Maryland.
Oprah Winfrey made a name for herself in Baltimore before going national and becoming the phenomenon she is today. Bill Clinton became president and Michael Jackson went from fronting the Jackson 5 to emerging as a world-wide pop icon.
Simultaneously with the constant whirlwind of events occurring during this 1967-1992 period, the newspaper industry was witnessing a quiet revolutionary change that would have a far reaching impact on the way its operations were conducted: the emergence of the age of digital communication. Digital communication would provide new opportunities for newspapers as well as lay the ground work for transforming the entire newspaper and media environment.
The AFRO, under the leadership of CEO and Publisher Jake Oliver, was quick to identify and experiment with the emerging digital age technologies. The introduction of desk-top computers into the AFRO production department in the mid-1980’s led to the eventual replacement of the heavy linotype typesetting equipment and its related teletype processing. By the late 1980’s desktop computers use had expanded into practically every aspect of the AFRO’s operations and eventually opened the door to the introduction of internet communication—a step that completely changed the ways news would be produced and communicated to AFRO readers.
The entry into the new internet phase was further facilitated by the AFRO’s move into a new headquarters building in January of 1992. This relocation was a perfect fit for accommodating the new electronic technologies that were beginning to emerge. The shift to providing news through a web site process, and new internet networks that newspapers in the country were beginning to use rapidly accelerated the ways the news was being disseminated—newsprint and the old way of delivering the news was beginning to be challenged. Throughout all of these changes the AFRO invariably became the first and leading Black newspaper to implement many of these new electronic communication technologies that were reconfiguring the media industry.