Helen Chavis Othow
Helen Chavis Othow (Courtesy photo)

Helen Chavis Othow, the beloved sister of National Newspaper Publishers Association President and CEO Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., has died at the age of 89.

A lover of reading, writing and history, Othow received her doctorate from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and majored in Black studies and African, African American and Caribbean literature.

She also studied Elizabethan and Medieval literature, and her dissertation, “The New Decorum: Moral Perspectives of Black Literature,” was published in the Library of Congress.

Othow presented “Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali by D.T. Niane,” which illustrated her appreciation and knowledge of African culture. 

She expressed a desire to impart to all citizens of the world.

“My sister was also a freedom fighter,” Chavis said. “The Chavis family has been fighting for freedom, justice and equality for 250 years in American and in Africa.”

Born April 21, 1932, in Oxford, North Carolina, Othow was the daughter of Benjamin Franklin Sr., a mason and superintendent of child care institutions, and Elisabeth Chavis, a teacher and writer.

A park in Raleigh, North Carolina, bears the name of her ancestor, John Chavis.

A lover of education, Othow also received a bachelor’s degree from St. Augustine’s College, and she earned her master’s at North Carolina Central University.

She eventually became head of the English department at St. Augustine’s College. 

She was a conscientious scholar dedicated to enhancing excellence in the literary and other arts.

Othow also pushed for the understanding of African American history, including educating her students and others about John Chavis, who fought in the Revolutionary War and became an educator who taught some of North Carolina’s most influential leaders.  

Othow is survived by her daughter, Ajulonyodier Elisabeth, her brother, Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., and a host of other relatives.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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  1. Dr. Othow was a great professor during my educational experience at Saint Augustine’s College in 1985. My heart is saddened but I know she’s now resting peacefully with God. My condolences to the family and all my colleagues at Saint Augustine’s College.

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