LARGER THAN LIFE: Lenora “Doll” Carter Enshrined in NNPA Gallery of Distinguished Black Publishers as the Black Press Celebrates 190 Years

Al McFarland, Chair of NNPA Foundation; Jackie Hampton, Chair of Enshrinement Committee; Chelsea Lenora White, Karen Carter Richards, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, CEO and President of NNPA; Nykayla Richards, Jesse Frazier, II and Denise Rolark Barnes, Chair of NNPA. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

This past week, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) hosted its annual Black Press Week gathering in the Nation’s Capital – Washington D.C.

This past March, the Black Press celebrated 190 years of telling the story of African Americans in this country, when on March 16, 1827, the very first edition of the “Freedom’s Journal” was published by the Reverend Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwurm.

Since that time, many publishers have come and gone, but in 1973, the Black Press Archives and Gallery of Distinguished Black Publishers was founded, as a joint project of Howard University and the NNPA, and established at the University’s MoorlandSpingarn Research Center.

Julius P. Carter, Forward Times Publishing Co. founder, was enshrined on March 8, 1985 into the Gallery, and now his devoted wife, Lenora “Doll” Carter, who successfully succeeded him in the publishing business, has joined him as the 78th inductee into the Black Press Archives and Gallery of Distinguished Black Publishers, during the 2017 Enshrinement Ceremony held on March 23rd at the beautiful Andrew Rankin Chapel at Howard University.

Affectionately known by many simply as “Doll”, Lenora Carter joins a group of influential and legendary Black Publishers, including but not limited to Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), Ida B. Wells (1869-1931), Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett (1914-1997), John Herman Henry Sengstacke (1912-1997), Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (1908-1972) and so many other Publishers who are a part of this esteemed Black Publishers Gallery.

The idea of establishing a Black Press Archives and Gallery of Distinguished Newspaper Publishers was conceived in 1965 by William O. Walker, Editor-Publisher of the Cleveland Call and Post, who first articulated the need for an academic institution that would provide a setting in which historical records related to the Black Press, as well as the newspapers themselves, could be collected, preserved and made available to scholars, students and the public. He also envisioned a gallery in which the photographs and accomplishments of Black Press notables would be on permanent display. Under the leadership of Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett, the NNPA endorsed a plan to develop an archives and gallery at a university where the assembled documentation on the Black Press could be permanently preserved and made available to scholars, students and the public. On July 12, 1973, Dr. Goodlett, President of the NNPA and editor/publisher of the San Francisco Sun-Reporter, wrote then-Howard University President James E. Cheek to propose the initiation of a joint project to establish at Howard University an “Archives of the Black Press in America” and “a gallery honoring the famous and outstanding Black newspaper publishers, beginning with John Russwurm, publisher of Freedom’s Journal and founder of the Black Press.” This idea was received enthusiastically by Dr. Cheek, and in 1973 he authorized the creation of a joint Howard University-NNPA project to create the archives and gallery as a unit of the MoorlandSpingarn Research Center. Recognized as one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive repositories for the collection and preservation of materials documenting the history and culture of Black people in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and United States, the Research Center is an ideal location for the archives of the Black Press.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee acknowledges Dr. Benjamin Chavis, CEO and President of NNPA, for celebrating 190 years of the Black Press and presented a Resolution of Congressional Recognition to Karen Carter Richards, daughter of the enshrined Lenora “Doll” Carter. (Brannon Neeley)

Now, “Doll” Carter’s legacy has been added to this list of esteemed Black Publishers.

Forward Times Publishing Co. was founded in January 1960 by her late husband, Julius, who groomed her in the capacity of General Manager and Advertising Director, to eventually be able to succeed him. After Julius’ death in 1971, at the tender age of 29, “Doll” Carter became the CEO of Forward Times Publishing Co. and as the Publisher and Editor and of the Houston Forward Times newspaper, the South’s largest independently owned and published African American newspaper, until her untimely death in April 2010.

The Forward Times grew tremendously under her leadership. Upon taking over the daily operations of the Forward Times, many naysayers and doubters predicted, and even took bets, that “Doll” would be out of business within six months. Much to their surprise, the newspaper never missed a week of print since inception, and the business celebrated over fifty years in business under her visionary and dedicated leadership until her untimely passing.

“Doll” Carter built on the solid foundation set for her and took the business to higher heights. In addition to being an award-winning and historic publication, Forward Times Publishing Co. made major strides in the publishing industry across the country. The bold decision she made to upgrade the business by purchasing an 8 Unit Goss press with the capability of printing two (2) color newspaper jobs at one time, gave Forward Times Publishing Co. a significant edge in the regional market. Not only was “Doll” Carter responsible for the day-to-day operations of a publishing company that owned its own press, she was also responsible for maintaining and securing other clients who owned major newspapers and magazines in the region, such as the University of Houston Daily Cougar, which Forward Times Publishing Co. printed every day for over 28 years. Because of the leadership of “Doll” Carter, the Forward Times was able to reach a paid circulation of roughly 65,000, and is still one of the few publications in the region to hold a second-class mailing permit to mail the newspapers directly into the homes and offices of subscribers. The Forward Times now holds memberships in the National Newspaper Publishers Association, Texas Press Service, Texas Publishers Association, Texas Business Alliance and Better Business Bureau

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) named “Doll” Carter, Publisher of the Year in both 1978 and 2004, for her outstanding contributions to the community and African American news media. She served on numerous boards and has held official Positions in many organizations, but she was a loyal and dedicated supporter of the NNPA. She held the office of secretary for eight years and faithfully served as a board member and was serving her 4th term as treasurer for the NNPA at the time of her death.

Daughter and Grandchildren of Lenora “Doll” Carter: Chelsea Lenora White, Jesse Frazier, II, Karen Carter Richards and Nykayla Richards (Brannon Neeley)

Karen Carter Richards, who succeeded her mom as a second-generation publisher of the Forward Times, was instrumental in researching and developing a document that highlights each and every inductee in the Gallery and believes it is imperative that we continue to teach people about the impact that these publishers and contributors have had in this country.

“I am so honored that the NNPA chose my mom to enshrine this year, during the 190th anniversary of the Black Press in America,” said Carter Richards. “It is so humbling to know that plaque of Lenora “Doll” Carter will forever hang with other distinguished inductees such as Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, Samuel Cornish, John Russwurm, Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett, John Sengstacke, Adam Clayton Powell, and my father, and her husband, the late Julius P. Carter. She joins a group of legendary publishers who should, and can no longer be “hidden figures” across America. It is beyond time we sing the praise of the Black Press and begin telling our story to the young people especially. Everyone must know about the significant contributions of the members of the Black Press, whether they were publishers, photographers, editors, columnists, or whatever role they played – they have made America great.”

The need for the voice of the Black Press to be louder and more vocal than ever, was emphasized by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), who broke away from Capitol Hill on the day that the healthcare vote was scheduled to be voted on to attend the enshrinement ceremony, praised Lenora “Doll” Carter, while also describing the current climate in Washington D.C. as a “place of havoc” being ran by a person who is “unread and unlearned.”

“Lenora ‘Doll’ Carter was larger than life,” said Rep. Jackson Lee. “I believe if ‘Doll’ Carter was here with us today, she would be speaking out about the things we are seeing in Washington, and making sure the voice of the Black Press was not silent. The government is in shambles and is unraveling before our very eyes. We need the Black Press like never before.”

Rep. Jackson Lee challenged the Black Press to continue reporting the truth and demanding accountability of the Trump administration, as Lenora “Doll” Carter would want it to.

Family, Friends and Staff (L to R) Hazel Tyler, Jeffrey L. Boney, Grace Boateng, Robert Garner and Linda Brown (Roy Lewis)

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee address NNPA Publishers (Roy Lewis)

Brannon Nealy, Hazel Tyler Ramsey and Karen Carter Richards (Roy Lewis)

African drummers leading Carter family and publishers into the Gallery of Distinguished Newspaper Publishers (Roy Lewis)