The Black Press Week ceremony dedicated to the late Lenora ‘Doll’ Carter, former publisher of the Houston Forward Times, proved almost as impressive as the honoree.
The celebration began with African drummers leading Carter family members into historic Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Several of Carter’s friends and members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) gave brief remarks and touching tributes, as the NNPA enshrined the former Houston publisher and community leader into its Gallery of Distinguished Newspaper Publishers.
Chelsea Lenora White, one of Carter’s granddaughters, delivered a stirring solo performance, that included an emotional rendition of the classic ‘Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)’ by Diana Ross.
“Doll and I were the last of the Mohicans,” said Chicago Crusader publisher Dorothy Leavell, one of Carter’s close friends. “She loved beautiful things and she loved the Black Press.
Carter died in 2010.
Leavell reminisced about how Carter worked tirelessly keeping the books for the NNPA while at times putting the Black Press trade group ahead of her beloved Forward Times. “In that day, it was twice as hard for women and Doll Carter stood the test of time.”
Mollie Belt, another close friend and the publisher/CEO of The Dallas Examiner, said she met Carter in 1986 and that Carter freely opened her arms to Belt.
“I was a new publisher and I knew that she loved the Black Press. Not by words, but by action,” Belt said. “She made sure that we knew all of the publishers, the history of the association and she made sure that we all were so proud.”
Jackie Hampton, the publisher of the Mississippi Link, said she was simply proud to have known Carter.
“I’m thankful that I got to know her in a very special way,” Hampton said.
Many who attended the ceremony called it the most touching they’ve witnessed.
Carter’s enshrinement coincided with the 190th anniversary of the Black Press of America and launch of the Freedom’s Journal, the first Black-owned and operated newspaper in the United States.
The Gallery of Distinguished Newspaper Publishers and the Black Press Archives have been housed at Howard University’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center since 1973.
It includes a stunning gallery of publishers and historic newspapers including pioneers John B. Russwurm and Samuel Cornish, the founders of Freedom’s Journal; Frederick Douglass; Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.; Carlton Goodlett of the Sun Reporter; John H. Murphy, Sr. of the Baltimore Afro-American; Robert S. Abbott of the Chicago Defender; C.B. Powell of the New York Amsterdam News; Willie Monroe Trotter of the Boston Guardian; Frank L. Stanley of the Louisville Defender; Cloves Campbell, Sr. of the Arizona Informant; Calvin W. Rolark of The Washington Informer and many others.
A touching video tribute, that featured colleagues, workmates and family members recalling Carter’s love for community and her newspaper, was one of the many highlights of Carter’s enshrinement ceremony.
“We hold the NNPA near and dear just like my mom did,” said a tearful Karen Carter-Richards, Carter’s daughter. Carter-Richards’ daughters and her son stood by her side.
Carter-Richards accepted the enshrinement plaque, bestowed by NNPA Foundation Chair Al McFarland, NNPA Chair Denise Rolark Barnes and NNPA President Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
“Lenora Doll Carter was high-class,” Rolark-Barnes said. “But she knew how to deal with regular people.”
Following the formal ceremony, the drummers led the family members and visitors to the Black Press Archives. Visitors to the archives can find a comprehensive research resource that includes complete microfilm files of Black newspapers and records of Black editors, publishers and journalists.
The archives represent a vital and constructive element of the Moorland-Spingarn program charged with the collection, preservation and interpretation of Black history and culture.
Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee offered words of appreciation for Carter’s contributions to the Black Press and her community.
“We’ve been under siege in Washington. The nation is under siege, but I wanted to step forward in this historic place to give honor where honor is due,” Jackson Lee said. “Even surviving and living and being the predominate news for our community, it’s obvious that Doll Carter made that her life with [her husband] Julius.”
Jackson Lee talked passionately about how Carter lifted the spirit of others and demanded respect for all.
“She walked with kings and queens,” said Jackson Lee. “But she still was able to walk around Houston and made sure that no one looked at her differently.”