Abell History

The City of Baltimore has been central to the story of the Abell Foundation since its inception. Journalist and printer Arunah S. Abell launched The Sun newspaper in Baltimore in 1837. His venture grew into the A.S. Abell Company, which published the Baltimore Sunpapers. At their height in the first half of the twentieth century, the Sunpapers issued three daily editions and had a significant local and national circulation, bringing news, analysis, and attention to Baltimore. Like many white-owned newspapers, however, The Sun often used its platform and power to fuel racism and cause harm to Black communities.

In 1953, Harry C. Black, then chairman of the A.S. Abell Company, created the A.S. Abell Company Foundation. With the sale of the A.S. Abell Company in 1986, the assets of the Foundation grew significantly. The Trustees changed the name to the Abell Foundation and launched a new era of giving. 

In 1987, the Trustees named Baltimore native and former public official, Robert C. Embry, Jr., the Foundation’s first President. Together, Embry and the Trustees established the Foundation’s guiding purpose: to improve the quality of life in Baltimore. Specifically, they prioritized creating opportunities for Baltimoreans living in concentrated poverty by working to address systemic social, economic, and environmental challenges. 

Over the past 35 years, Baltimore has experienced periods of growth and optimism, as well as challenges and setbacks. The people of Baltimore have proven that they are resilient in the face of these challenges, and remain the City’s greatest asset.

The needs of the city have changed, as has our understanding of the sources and nature of the challenges we face. The Foundation’s commitment to the people of Baltimore, however, has not wavered. We continue to learn, grow, and adapt as we work in partnership with thousands of individuals, nonprofit organizations, and public agencies to remove barriers to opportunity and create a healthier, safer Baltimore where all of its residents can thrive.