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September 28, 2005
Vol. 97, Issue 2

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Durham tradition serves as voice of black community
By Jean Rogers
Echo Staff Writer

Kenneth Edmonds, publisher of the Carolina Times, stands before a picture of his grandfather, Louis E. Austin, founder of the Durham newspaper. (Photo: Joseph Coleman/Staff Photograoher)

N.C. Central University alumnus Louis E. Austin bought The Standard Advertising in 1922 and he changed the name to the Carolina Times, with a vision of turning the newspaper into the voice of Durham’s African-American community.

Austin’s vision is still being carried on 83 years later and the Carolina Times is still Durham’s only black owned and operated newspaper.

Kenneth Edmonds, Austin’s grandson, is the current publisher of the Carolina Times. He said the Carolina Times aims t help the black community progress.

“My grandfather viewed the use of the paper in terms of moving black folks forward and NCCU is part of that,” Edmonds said.

Austin was good friends with James E. Shepard, founder of the National Religious Training School and Chautauqua, which would later become NCCU.

This family-owned business on Fayetteville Street was originally on East Pettigrew Street in Hayti, formerly Durham’s black business district. The weekly newspaper covers sports, entertainment, city and county government.

During the struggle for Civil Rights Movement, the paper played a vital role in the community.

Austin was involved in the first civil rights case to integrate the UNC system. In 1933 he personally drove Raymond Hocutt to UNC-Chapel Hill’s pharmacy school so he could try to enroll.

When Hocutt was denied admission he filed the first civil rights case to integrate the UNC system.

Austin used the paper’s editorial column to chronicle the struggle for civil rights in the black community.

In 1971, Austin’s daughter, Vivian Austin Edmonds, herself an alumna of NCCU, became the paper’s publisher when Austin died. She had been working for the paper since she was five years old.

In 1979, many black-owned businesses in downtown Durham were relocated to make room for the Durham Freeway.

This relocation forever closed the doors of many Durham black businesses, and doomed Hayti, one of the nation’s most vital black business zones.

Edmonds said the Carolina Times survived urban renewal because the black community supported his grandfather and what the paper stood for.

“Urban renewal in combination with integration really took the heart out of the black business district,” he said.

“The fact that we were able to tell our own story — and by the grace of God — is how we survived. People come to us because they are coming for a specific reason.”

In 2002, Edmonds assumed control of the newspaper after his mother retired.

“She is still a vital part of the paper,” said Edmonds, adding that his mother still checks in on the paper once or twice a week and helps edit stories from her home.

Even though it is not something that he originally planned to do, Edmonds says he loves his work.

“Newspapers involve writing — something that I can do, but prefer not to,” he said.

“Part of my reason for coming back was not only to help my mother, but my grandfather has always been special to me and I wanted to try and carry on his vision for the newspaper,” said Edmonds. According to Edmonds, NCCU has always been a part of the Carolina Times and he is very happy with the growth of NCCU.

“We applaud Chancellor Ammons because he is not only bringing in top-flight students and raising the standards, but there is an expectation of more from the students,” said Edmonds. “Children will rise to the level of expectation. If you expect more, they will produce more.”

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