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With its humble marquee and quiet storefront appearance, the office of the Afro-American is easily overlooked. Though it resembles any other local business to 14th Street denizens, it is more remarkable than any liquor store or laundromat. A former slave and first sergeant in the Civil War bought the then one-page weekly in the early 1890s. By 1922, it had the largest circulation of any black publication in America. Today, the total circulation for the paper’s D.C., Baltimore, and Richmond editions still tops 100,000. Many of the nation’s African-American newspapers have an equally long and colorful history. The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords, a documentary film by Stanley Nelson, uses archival footage and interviews with some of the surviving reporters to uncover these stories. Although readership for most black papers has dropped off in recent times, they are still an important part of the African-American experience—an experience they have always struggled to depict. At noon Friday, Jan. 29, at the National Archives Theater, 7th & Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Free. (202) 501-5000; and at 10 p.m. Monday, Feb. 8, on PBS (WETA Channel 22 in D.C.) (Neil Drumming)