Dr. Calvin W. Rolark Sr.
Dr. Calvin W. Rolark Sr.

Oct. 16 marked the 53rd anniversary of The Washington Informer.

Dr. Calvin W. Rolark Sr., the newspaper’s founder, saw fit and necessary to add a voice to the struggle for self-determination and against racial discrimination in, of all places, the District of Columbia.

A native of Texarkana, Texas, Dr. Rolark left the place he loved, but also despised because of its treatment of the enslaved people who were denied their freedom long after Congress declared slavery illegal in the U.S. He became a lifelong observer of Juneteenth.

In 1952, when he came to Washington following graduation from Prairie View A&M and a stint in the Air Force, he was discouraged to find the same discrimination he thought he’d left behind. But Washingtonians were actively working to remove the vestiges of the past that negatively impacted Black people. He joined the supporters of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement in DC, and lent support to the effort to enfranchise District residents who were precluded from voting in any national or local elections and denied voting representation in Congress, which continues today. He concluded that the movement needed a vehicle that would echo the voices of progress and beat the drum to ensure the powers that be could read with their own eyes what Black people wanted and why they were demanding it now.

That kind of advocacy journalism sparked the beginning of the Black Press in 1827, it fueled the mission of Dr. Rolark in 1964, and it continues to agitate and drive the mission of The Washington Informer today under Denise Rolark Barnes, Rolark’s daughter, who assumed the position of publisher following her father’s sudden and untimely death in 1994.

So, despite the current attacks on the media, the attempts to chip away at the Freedom of the Press, the illegitimate claims about “fake facts,” the ongoing discriminatory practices of corporate America, the misconceived threat of the Internet to the Black Press, and those who just have no interest in news about Black people — despite it all, The Washington Informer celebrates and we optimistically look forward to many more years of informing, educating, empowering and advocating for our readers.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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