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Leon DeCosta Dash

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Information about Leon DeCosta Dash

Profile image of Leon DeCosta Dash

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Journalism Professor
Newspaper Reporter

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Clams (Fried)
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Kenya
Favorite Quote:
Help Me, Jesus.

Birthplace

Born:
3/16/1944
Birth Location:
New Bedford, Massachusetts

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Journalism Professor
Newspaper Reporter

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Clams (Fried)
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Kenya
Favorite Quote:
Help Me, Jesus.

Birthplace

Born:
3/16/1944
Birth Location:
New Bedford
See how Leon DeCosta Dash is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Journalist Leon DeCosta Dash has captured the struggles, triumphs, and human spirit of his subjects through his written work. Dash was born on March 16, 1944 in New Bedford, Massachusetts to Leon Dash, Sr., a postal clerk, and Ruth, an administrator for the health department. The family moved to New York City, and Dash grew up in the boroughs of Harlem and the Bronx, New York. As a college student at Lincoln University, he served as the editor for the school newspaper, the Lincolnian. It was not until he transferred to Howard University where he received a paying position in journalism. That year, in 1966, The Washington Post hired Dash as a journalism intern and a cub reporter. Two years later, he graduated from Howard University with his B.A. degree in history. After graduating, Dash joined the United States Peace Corps in Kenya.

Upon his return, Dash began working full-time for The Washington Post. In 1972, Dash along with Ben Bagdikian, wrote The Shame of the Prisons, which exposed problems within the American correctional system. In the following year, 1973, Dash embedded himself with Angolan rebel forces and then again from October 1976 through May 1977. This work earned him the George Polk Award from the Overseas Press Club and the prize in International News Reporting given by the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, both in 1974. In 1975, Dash along with forty-three other journalists, co-founded the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).

In 1979, Dash took the position of Bureau Chief of West Africa, covering stories in the region including, the Nigerian civil war, the Liberian and Ghanaian coups and the refugee crisis, until he left the post in 1984. In that year, he joined the investigative desk at The Washington Post. In 1986, Dash published his “At Risk” series and won numerous prizes including the Distinguished Service Award from the Social Services Administration of Maryland. He then developed this series into When Children Want Children, published in 1989. This critically acclaimed book garnered Dash numerous awards including the Washington Independent Writers President’s Award. In 1995, Dash and The Washington Post photographer, Lucian Perkins, won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism on their report of a District of Columbia woman's struggle with poverty, crime and drug use. In 1996, the article was turned into a best-selling book, Rosa Lee. Dash also received an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences based on the documentary.

In 1998, Dash took a professorship at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The following year, New York University named the “Rosa Lee’s Story” series as one of the best one hundred works in twentieth century American journalism. In 2000, Dash received the Swanlund chair, the highest endowed chair position at the University of Illinois, and in 2003, he became a permanent faculty member. Dash has received his honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Lincoln University. He has two daughters, Darla and Destiny.

Dash was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 13, 2008.

See how Leon DeCosta Dash is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Leon DeCosta Dash's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Leon DeCosta Dash lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his maternal grandfather
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his maternal grandmother's education and career
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Leon DeCosta Dash talks about the Garvey movement
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Leon DeCosta Dash talks about his maternal great-grandfather's death
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his mother's upbringing
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes the West End of New Bedford, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes the black community in New Bedford, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Leon DeCosta Dash talks about his mother's nursing career
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his family's religious experiences
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Leon DeCosta Dash talks about his father's enlistment in the U.S. Army
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his paternal grandfather's employment
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes how his parents met
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls his father's friendship with Timuel Black
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his father's postal service career
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his parents' personalities
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls his kindergarten class at P.S. 133 in New York City
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers his early personality
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers P.S. 133 in New York City
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his home life
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his earliest childhood memories
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers the Riverton Houses in New York City
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls the screening process for the Riverton Houses
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his early interests
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers his early experiences of religion
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls St. Luke's Episcopal Church in the Bronx, New York
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers the first time he consumed alcohol
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers rock and roll music
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls his introduction to African culture
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Leon DeCosta Dash lists the schools he attended in New York City
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers Olinville Junior High School in the Bronx, New York
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers the Civil Rights Movement in New York City
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers his attitude towards school
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls the Rhodes Preparatory School in New York City, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Leon DeCosta Dash talks about the development of his racial identity
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls the poetry readings in Greenwich Village in New York City
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes how he takes after his maternal grandfather
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls experiencing racial discrimination in high school
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls the Rhodes Preparatory School in New York City, pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his childhood personality
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his parents' investment in private education
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls his start at the Rhodes Preparatory School
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls being accosted by a high school classmate
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers his social life during high school, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Leon DeCosta Dash talks about his early experiences with alcohol
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers his social life during high school, pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls his decision to attend Lincoln University in Pennsylvania
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers the Baruch School of Business in New York City
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, pt. 1
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls reading E. Franklin Frazier's 'Black Bourgeoisie'
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers transferring to Howard University, pt. 1
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers meeting his daughter
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers reuniting with his daughter
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers transferring to Howard University, pt. 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers his first position at The Washington Post
  • Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, pt. 2
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers the history department at Howard University
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers Chancellor Williams
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Leon DeCosta Dash talks about Ahmed Sekou Toure and Stokely Carmichael
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Leon DeCosta Dash talks about Cleveland Sellers
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes the political climate at Howard University
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers his internship at The Washington Post
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls developing an interest in journalism
  • Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers the assassination of Malcolm X
  • Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Leon DeCosta recalls learning about the Cuban revolution
  • Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers the student activists at Howard University
  • Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls his early reporting for The Washington Post
  • Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers graduating from Howard University
  • Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers his draft deferment
  • Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Leon DeCosta Dash talks about the Nandi social customs
  • Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers his teaching experiences in Kenya
  • Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Leon DeCosta Dash reflects upon his experience in the Peace Corps
  • Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination
  • Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his first marriage
  • Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers his return to The Washington Post
  • Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes the racial discrimination at The Washington Post
  • Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's ruling on The Washington Post
  • Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers his struggle with alcoholism
  • Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes 'The Shame of the Prisons'
  • Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers his assignment to Angola, pt. 1
  • Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers his assignment to Angola, pt. 2
  • Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers his first trip to Angola
  • Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls negotiating his assignment to Angola
  • Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola
  • Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls founding the National Association of Black Journalists, pt. 1
  • Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls founding the National Association of Black Journalists, pt. 2
  • Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Leon DeCosta Dash reflects upon the National Association of Black Journalists
  • Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers returning to Angola, pt. 1
  • Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers returning to Angola, pt. 2
  • Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Leon DeCosta Dash talks about his paternal great uncle
  • Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes 'A Long March in Angola'
  • Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls seeking treatment for his alcoholism
  • Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Leon DeCosta Dash talks about his success as a journalist
  • Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers his third trip to Angola
  • Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers the Angolan Civil War
  • Tape: 12 Story: 8 - Leon DeCosta Dash talks about Jonas Savimbi, pt. 1
  • Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers reporting on the Angolan Civil War
  • Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers Jonas Savimbi's treatment of dissidents
  • Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Leon DeCosta Dash talks about Jonas Savimbi, pt. 2
  • Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers the assassination of Jonas Savimbi
  • Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls reporting on Marion Barry's mayoral campaign
  • Tape: 13 Story: 6 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls The Washington Post's endorsement of Marion Barry
  • Tape: 13 Story: 7 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls teaching at the University of California, San Diego
  • Tape: 13 Story: 8 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls establishing an African bureau of The Washington Post
  • Tape: 14 Story: 1 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls serving as the West African bureau chief of The Washington Post, pt. 1
  • Tape: 14 Story: 2 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls interviewing Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings
  • Tape: 14 Story: 3 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers visiting Jerry Rawlings' home in Ghana
  • Tape: 14 Story: 4 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls the coup against Liberian President William R. Tolbert, Jr.
  • Tape: 14 Story: 5 - Leon DeCosta Dash talks about African Americans' views of Africa
  • Tape: 14 Story: 6 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers the overthrow of Ugandan President Idi Amin
  • Tape: 14 Story: 7 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls serving as the West African bureau chief of The Washington Post, pt. 2
  • Tape: 14 Story: 8 - Leon DeCosta Dash reflects upon the perceptions of Africa
  • Tape: 15 Story: 1 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers investigating adolescent childbearing
  • Tape: 15 Story: 2 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls joining The Washington Post's investigative unit
  • Tape: 15 Story: 3 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes the Washington Highlands community in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 15 Story: 4 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers writing 'At Risk: Chronicles of Teenage Pregnancy'
  • Tape: 15 Story: 5 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his findings about adolescent childbearing
  • Tape: 15 Story: 6 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his study of intergenerational poverty
  • Tape: 15 Story: 7 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls discovering drug abuse among the officers at the D.C. Central Detention Facility
  • Tape: 16 Story: 1 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes how he met Rosa Lee Cunningham
  • Tape: 16 Story: 2 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls the impact of his series, 'Drugs in the Ranks'
  • Tape: 16 Story: 3 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers his early interviews of Rosa Lee Cunningham
  • Tape: 16 Story: 4 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes Rosa Lee Cunningham's family background
  • Tape: 16 Story: 5 - Leon DeCosta Dash talks about Rosa Lee Cunningham's education
  • Tape: 16 Story: 6 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes Rosa Lee Cunningham's introduction to criminality
  • Tape: 16 Story: 7 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers the public response to 'Rosa Lee's Story'
  • Tape: 17 Story: 1 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers the death of Rosa Lee Cunningham's grandson
  • Tape: 17 Story: 2 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his methods as an investigative journalist
  • Tape: 17 Story: 3 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers interviewing Patty Cunningham
  • Tape: 17 Story: 4 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls Rosa Lee Cunningham's confession to prostituting her daughter
  • Tape: 17 Story: 5 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his series, 'Young Male Killers'
  • Tape: 17 Story: 6 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his transition to academia, pt. 1
  • Tape: 17 Story: 7 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his transition to academia, pt. 2
  • Tape: 17 Story: 8 - Leon DeCosta Dash recalls joining the faculty of the University of Illinois
  • Tape: 18 Story: 1 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers his invitation to interview Allan Boesak
  • Tape: 18 Story: 2 - Leon DeCosta Dash remembers interviewing Allan Boesak in South Africa
  • Tape: 18 Story: 3 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his early academic career
  • Tape: 18 Story: 4 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his courses at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Tape: 18 Story: 5 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his friendship with Rosa Lee Cunningham, pt. 1
  • Tape: 18 Story: 6 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his friendship with Rosa Lee Cunningham, pt. 2
  • Tape: 18 Story: 7 - Leon DeCosta Dash reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 18 Story: 8 - Leon DeCosta Dash reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 18 Story: 9 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes his concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 18 Story: 10 - Leon DeCosta Dash talks about his family
  • Tape: 18 Story: 11 - Leon DeCosta Dash describes how he would like to be remembered