The Atlanta Inquirer – “To Seek Out the Truth and Report It Without Fear or Favor” – became not only an educational tool but a distinctive, viable route of communicating news of, by and within the African-American community upon its creation in August, 1960.
During the height of the civil rights movement that was catapulted by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s exemplary leadership, local leaders (Dr. Clinton E. Warner, Paul Delaney, Herman J. Russell, Jesse Hill, Jr., Hilda Wilson, Clarence Coleman, Gladys Powell, M. Carl Holman, et al.) of the Atlanta community, as well as student activists of Atlanta University (Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Julian Bond, Marian Wright Edelman, Lonnie King, et al.) found the necessity to establish a news organ to outline distinctive views of the youth-young adult population who sought to put themselves in harm’s way for the cause of equal rights and justice in Atlanta, the nation and abroad. Thus, The Atlanta Inquirer instantly filled the void for students to possess a voice left unheard by other media – yet, brought about a unique tool for the “beloved community” at-large to participate in the positive growth of Atlanta’s respective communities. The New York Times, in 1960, called The Atlanta Inquirer, “the loud voice in Atlanta,” genuine testament to its power in the community upon leading the way to influence other Black newspapers and its readers to assist with electing President John F. Kennedy, President Jimmy Carter , President Bill Clinton, and President Barack Obama respectively, to the White House.
Continuing to provide a “voice for the voiceless” and, in general, a community outlet for the people in the New Millennium, The Atlanta Inquirer – recipient of numerous awards and commendations for media excellence and community service – remains on the vanguard to not only promote and initiate constructive change but also remedy the wrongs and injustice endured by a collective people of society. Students, along with the general citizenry, are encouraged to participate in the communication process which not only affords the overall opportunity toward personal and professional achievement, but it also creates the spirit and desire of community activism and assist to provide new dimensions to African-American life in Atlanta, and the Black diaspora, in general. Several examples of The Atlanta Inquirer’s resolve to inform and enhance the local community at-large were the newspaper’s unique coverage of Atlanta’s “Berlin Wall” (1961), a barrier erected to segregate Blacks from an all-white neighborhood; the election of an African-American as mayor of a major Southern city (1973), the disturbing and riveting homicides that were the Atlanta Child Murder cases that took the lives of nearly 30 African-American pre-teen and teen males (1979-82) and the subsequent jury trial of convicted murderer Wayne Williams; the announcement of Atlanta being chosen as host city of the Centennial Summer Olympic Games (1990), as well as the historic election of Shirley C. Franklin as Atlanta’s first female mayor (2000), and other noteworthy events that has shaped “the rising of the New South.”
For years, John B. Smith, Sr. was the distinguished publisher and chief executive officer of The Atlanta Inquirer. Mr. Smith’s desire for perfection and his exemplary knowledge of salesmanship made him effective in the field of marketing, in particular, and communications, in general. He represented The Atlanta Inquirer not only within the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, but also Atlanta’s Community Relations Commission, along with other enterprising business activities. Additionally, from his initial activism while The Atlanta Inquirer’s advertising manager, Mr. Smith ascended to chairman of the board of the National Newspaper Publisher’s Association (NNPA), “the Black Press of America,” 2005-2009 commanding responsibilities of the newspaper federation which is comprised of 200-plus African-American newspapers nationwide. At his death in 2017, the Inquirer family sorely missed his tremendous leadership.
Progressing into the 21st Century, The Atlanta Inquirer steadily moves forth to not only provide local, national and international news to the benefit of its readers, the newspaper effectively promotes an agenda of inclusiveness, equality and social justice for all with timely and on-target stories to uplift the Black family unit, in general, for generations to come.