Since 2005, The Urban News, published by Johnnie Grant, has been centering Black voices in the local press. Offering both local and national news, the paper lives up to its tagline as a “Gateway to the Multicultural Community” in Asheville. 

Ms. Grant was inspired to begin The Urban News because of her childhood love of reading Jet, Ebony, and other Black-owned publications in her East End neighborhood home.

Ms. Grant carries on a long legacy of Black Ashevillians lifting up Black voices through the written word. 

Before 1865, laws across the South prohibited Black individuals from reading and writing. Even after these restrictions were lifted, operating a Black newspaper was a precarious endeavor with great financial and personal risk. In 1898, race riots erupted in Wilmington, North Carolina, after a White mob destroyed a Black newspaper office as part of a racially motivated rebellion in which White supremacists forced elected officials to resign at gunpoint.

The Colored Enterprise, published and edited by Thomas Leatherwood, was one of the earliest Black-owned newspapers in Western North Carolina. In March 2015, the only known copy of the paper—the December 18, 1897, edition—was discovered in a time capsule that had been secretly placed beneath the Vance Monument more than a century before.

The Colored Enterprise was one of the earliest Black-owned newspapers in Western North Carolina. In 2015, the December 18, 1897 edition of the paper was discovered in a time capsule that had been placed beneath the Vance Monument. It is preserved by the North Carolina Western Regional Archives. Courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina

Darin Waters, the deputy secretary for North Carolina’s Office of Archives and History, weighed in on the monumental discovery in a 2015 issue of the Asheville Citizen-Times: "It's an important piece of information that establishes the African-American presence here. It demonstrates a population that wasn't just isolated in the mountains but was very actively involved and seeking ways to be engaged in the larger body politic."