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Sylvester Monroe

Journalist and best selling author Sylvester Monroe was born August 5, 1951 in Leland, Mississippi. Raised by his mother, Hattie Mae Monroe Kelley, in Chicago’s housing projects, Monroe attended John B. Drake and Douglas Elementary Schools. At Phillips High School, Monroe and two friends were introduced by a teacher to the United States Office of Economic Opportunity’s “A Better Chance” program, which led to his enrollment and graduation from the elite college preparatory, St. George's School in 1969. After graduation, Monroe applied and was accepted into Harvard University. During the summers, Monroe interned at Foote, Cone and Belding and Newsweek magazine. Monroe graduated from Harvard University, cum laude with a B.A. in social studies in 1973.

Starting as a full time correspondent in Newsweek’s Boston bureau, Monroe covered the Kenneth Edelin abortion trial and school desegregation in South Boston. He served as Newsweek’sChicago correspondent and from 1976 to 1978, as Deputy Bureau Chief from 1978 to1983 and as Boston Bureau Chief from 1983 to 1985, when he joined Newsweek’s Washington bureau. Monroe won several awards for his reporting on such stories as “Why Johnny Can’t Write”, “American Innovation”, and the three part series “Why Public Schools are Flunking”. Monroe covered Harold Washington’s successful Chicago mayoral campaign in 1983 and Reverend Jesse L. Jackson’s bid for the U.S. presidency in 1984. In 1987, Newsweek featured a cover story about Monroe’s return to Chicago’s housing projects to follow up on eleven of his childhood friends. The story, “Brothers” co-authored with Newsweek senior editor, Peter Goldman, developed into a best selling book, Brothers: Black and Poor—A True Story of Courage and Survival. Monroe joined TIME Magazine in 1989 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent. There, he worked as a principal reporter for post riot coverage of the Rodney King trial, as well as on the 1993 cover story, “Is L.A. Going to Hell?” and a 1994 feature about Minister Louis Farrakhan. Monroe became deputy managing editor of the San Jose Mercury News in 2001, but later that year joined the Atlanta Journal – Constitution as Sunday editor for the National /Foreign Desk. In 2006, Monroe joined the staff of Ebony Magazine as Senior Editor, where he was political editor and covered Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Since leaving Ebony in 2009, he has worked as a freelance editor and writer for several publications including The Root.com and The Defendersonline.com. Most recently, Monroe has been a contract editor and writer on the Corporate Citizenship Team at Oracle Corp. and Oracle Education Foundation.

A former vice president of the National Association of Black Journalists, Monroe served on the board of St. Georges Preparatory School and is a frequently sought after as a public speaker.

Monroe, who still considers Chicago home, has a son, Jason and lives in Atlanta.

Accession Number

A2005.204

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/25/2005 |and| 11/30/2012

Last Name

Monroe

Maker Category
Schools

St. Georges School

John B. Drake Elementary School

John J. Pershing West Middle School

Harvard University

Wendell Phillips Academy High School

Douglas Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Sylvester

Birth City, State, Country

Leland

HM ID

MON05

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Brazil

Favorite Quote

Some People See Things That Are And Ask Why? I Dream Things That Never Were And Ask Why Not?

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

8/5/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Steak (T-Bone)

Short Description

Author, newspaper editor, and magazine correspondent Sylvester Monroe (1951 - ) has served as a correspondent and Bureau Chief in Newsweek’s Boston bureau, and Los Angeles correspondent for TIME magazine. He later joined the Atlanta Journal – Constitution as Sunday editor for the National/Foreign Desk.

Employment

Newsweek Magazine

Time Magazine

San Jose Mercury-news

Atlanta Journal Constitution and Cox Enterprises, Inc.

Ebony Magazine

Marketplace

The Tavis Smiley Show

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sylvester Monroe's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sylvester Monroe lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sylvester Monroe describes his maternal family history, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sylvester Monroe describes his maternal family history, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sylvester Monroe describes his maternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sylvester Monroe describes his mother's life in Leland, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sylvester Monroe describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sylvester Monroe talks about his father's return to Mississippi after the Korean War

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sylvester Monroe talks about his mother's family moving to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Sylvester Monroe describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sylvester Monroe describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sylvester Monroe describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sylvester Monroe describes the familial love he received as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sylvester Monroe remembers his childhood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sylvester Monroe details his elementary school education in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sylvester Monroe describes his elementary and middle school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sylvester Monroe talks about the impact of religion in his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sylvester Monroe talks about his love of music

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sylvester Monroe describes his high school years

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sylvester Monroe describes his interest in reading

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sylvester Monroe remembers his experience in A Better Chance summer program

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sylvester Monroe recalls his acceptance to St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sylvester Monroe describes the presence of the Black P. Stone Nation in his youth

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sylvester Monroe describes his time at Wendell Phillips High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Sylvester Monroe remembers arriving at St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sylvester Monroe describes his first night at St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sylvester Monroe remembers being homesick at St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sylvester Monroe describes adjusting to St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sylvester Monroe talks about integration at St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sylvester Monroe describes his decision to attend Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sylvester Monroe describes the contrast between his school and home environment

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sylvester Monroe describes his summer jobs in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sylvester Monroe describes the lives of his friends after A Better Chance program, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sylvester Monroe describes the lives of his friends after A Better Chance program, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sylvester Monroe talks about his internship with Newsweek during the 1968 Democratic National Convention

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sylvester Monroe describes his freshman year at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Sylvester Monroe describes the cultural isolation he felt at Newsweek and Time

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sylvester Monroe talks about the rise of the black middle class

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Sylvester Monroe describes the revolutionary mindset of the 1970s

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Sylvester Monroe remembers black intellectuals at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Sylvester Monroe talks about interracial relationships in academia

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Sylvester Monroe remembers anxiety around his racial identity at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Sylvester Monroe describes his writing about black students at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Sylvester Monroe talks about African American organizations at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Sylvester Monroe describes his major at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Sylvester Monroe describes his social studies major at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Sylvester Monroe describes his college roommate's struggles, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Sylvester Monroe describes his college roommate's struggles, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Sylvester Monroe describes influential professors at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Sylvester Monroe describes his summer internships at Foote, Cone and Belding and Newsweek in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Sylvester Monroe remembers covering HistoryMaker Kenneth Carlton Edelin's trial for Newsweek

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Sylvester Monroe remembers reporting on school desegregation for Newsweek's Boston bureau

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Slating of Sylvester Monroe's interview, session 2

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Sylvester Monroe describes Newsweek's stance on race during the 1970s and 1980s

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Sylvester Monroe describes his journalistic mission

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Sylvester Monroe recalls important news stories from 1973

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Sylvester Monroe describes his mentors at Newsweek's Chicago bureau

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Sylvester Monroe remembers his childhood impression of Chicago politics

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Sylvester Monroe talks about reporting on the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Sylvester Monroe talks about Harold Washington's election as mayor of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Sylvester Monroe remembers covering HistoryMaker Reverend Jesse L. Jackson's 1984 presidential campaign

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Sylvester Monroe talks about HistoryMaker Reverend Jesse L. Jackson's 1984 presidential campaign

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Sylvester Monroe describes the controversy around HistoryMaker Reverend Jesse L. Jackson's 1984 campaign, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Sylvester Monroe describes the controversy around HistoryMaker Reverend Jesse L. Jackson's 1984 campaign, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Sylvester Monroe shares his thoughts about HistoryMaker Reverend Jesse L. Jackson's alleged anti-Semitic remarks

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Sylvester Monroe describes the legacy of HistoryMaker Reverend Jesse L. Jackson

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Sylvester Monroe describes Newsweek's reluctance to spotlight stories about African Americans

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Sylvester Monroe describes returning to the Robert Taylor Homes as a Newsweek reporter

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Sylvester Monroe describes the origin and publication of his article 'Brothers'

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Sylvester Monroe describes the creation of his book, 'Brothers: Black and Poor - A True Story of Courage'

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Sylvester Monroe talks about the onset of the crack epidemic in the 1980s

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Sylvester Monroe describes the impact of the crack epidemic in the late 1980s

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Sylvester Monroe describes changes in news media during the 1990s

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Sylvester Monroe talks about the stories he covered for Time magazine

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Sylvester Monroe remembers writing about the Million Man March for Emerge magazine

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Sylvester Monroe remembers interviewing Nelson Mandela after his release from prison

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Sylvester Monroe describes his Emerge story on Nelson Mandela's release from prison

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Sylvester Monroe describes landing an interview with HistoryMaker Minister Louis Farrakhan

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Sylvester Monroe describes his Time cover story on HistoryMaker Minister Louis Farrakhan

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Sylvester Monroe talks about his role as a reporter

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Sylvester Monroe describes his jobs following his departure from Time magazine in 2000

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Sylvester Monroe describes his time as Sunday national editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and as senior editor for Ebony

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Sylvester Monroe remembers his time as senior editor at Ebony magazine in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Sylvester Monroe remembers the election of HistoryMaker President Barack Obama

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Sylvester Monroe talks about writing 'The Africa You Don't Know' for Ebony

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Sylvester Monroe describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Sylvester Monroe reflects upon his life

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Sylvester Monroe reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Sylvester Monroe describes his family

Tape: 12 Story: 8 - Sylvester Monroe describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$2

DATape

3$8

DAStory

3$5

DATitle
Sylvester Monroe describes his interest in reading
Sylvester Monroe describes his mentors at Newsweek's Chicago bureau
Transcript
There I met Leroy Lovelace who was my freshman English teacher; this is a guy from Cincinnati [Ohio], very strict teacher. A guy who taught literature with a passion I mean we were freshmen in high school [at Wendell Phillips High School; Wendell Phillips Academy High School, Chicago, Illinois], this guy was teaching us 'The Rubaiyat' of Omar Khayyam. And we thought Mr. Lovelace, what's a Rubaiyat (laughter) he said, "Don't worry about it, just read it," (laughter). "Look it up in the dictionary." 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' [Alfred Lord Tennyson] and his favorite book of all, a book that I still love to this day which he taught us as high school freshmen which was 'Moby Dick' [Herman Melville]. And you know I've rea- I, I would said I have ready 'Moby Dick' certainly not as many times as he has, because he taught it perennially. But I have maybe read 'Moby Dick' seven or eight times, cover to cover.$$Now that's a deep book, I mean (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) And every time I read it, I find something that I didn't see before, and he, I mean, but it was, it wasn't just the book; it was his passion for it. And his passion for the written word that be, that began to grow on me. And so I meet, I mean so we started doing. Let me back up a little bit more. Back in elementary school, at [John B.] Drake [Elementary] School [Chicago, Illinois], there was a librarian, a little lady named Mrs. McCuen [ph.] who spoke through her nose and she was, I mean if there ever there was a character or stereotype of a librarian, it was her. I mean she wore her glasses down on her nose like this and she spoke through her nose like that and she talked about the joy of reading. And but she got us to, and what she did was she made it a game for us. And so a group of my friends, I told you these two guys that I met Steve Steward [ph.] and Ray Stingley [ph.]. We used to race through books and the books that we read which were taught, taught to us, given to us by Mrs. McCuen in the library, were these lil', biographies. And they would be, we would read 'Thomas Jefferson, Boy Statesman' [sic. 'Tom Jefferson, A Boy in Colonial Days (Third President of the United States),' Helen Albee Monsell], 'George Washington Carver, Boy Scientist' [Augusta Stevenson] and a lot of these were written by a guy [sic. woman] named Augusta Stevenson. But they were a series [Childhood of Famous Americans] of, of stories about, biographies about famous people when they were boys. And we devoured these books, just running through, and then she turned us on to the Newbery Award [John Newbery Medal] books, 'The Matchlock Gun' [Walter D. Edmonds] when I was a boy some of them are, 'Captain of the Ice' [Charles Spain Verral] any number of them that I could remember. But we would race through these books to see who could read more, more of them in a week. And we weren't just, I mean we weren't we were really reading these books; we knew these books inside out. 'Cause she gave us this, she instilled that in us, so the reading part and the writing part as so as I'm reading and I turned I find out I could write a little bit. Mr. Lovelace by this time, we are in his class and we get in this, this is an Honors English class. And so what's helped us to get into this Honors English class is this preparation we've had at Douglas [Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois] and Drake before us, before we got there.$[HistoryMaker] Kenneth [Carlton] Edelin case?$$Um-hm, yeah that was (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Energy crisis--$$Crisis--$$Watergate.$$Those, those were all you know really big stories. And one of the things for me, for a kid you know I said, I'm twenty-one just turned twenty-two years old, I'm, I'm the youngest full correspondent that Newsweek has ever hired. And they hired me straight out of school, I learned on the job, luckily I always said that I was taught, I had two summer internships before I took the job. I, at Newsweek in Chicago [Illinois], in the Chicago bureau in the summer after my sophomore year and the summer after my junior year [at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts]. And after I, after my senior year, I, I got hired as a full-time correspondent. In those summers I was taught by these, some of them rough old I mentioned ex-Chicago Daily News, Chicago's American [Chicago American] 'cause, that that was the newspaper back then. There were two, the Trib; there was the [Chicago] Tribune, Chicago American, Chicago Daily News, Chicago Sun-Times. And Chicago was then known as this great news town, still is to some extent, but not you know in the way it had been. And these guys had now worked for Newsweek. Don Holt who had worked for the Chicago, Chicago Daily News, Frank Maier, who had worked for the Chicago Daily News, Bernice Buresh who had worked for the Milwaukee Sentinel these were my, these sort of people who trained me. I never went to journalism school, I never had a writing course, I learned on the job, and I remember being terrified by some of these guys. They come in and they'd say, I had two kinds of editors, first was the guys that I was terrified of. I'd come in and I write my story, and in those days they call you into the office and they have you stand by the desk. And they have your copy and read it and say, "What is this?" I say, "That's my lede," they said, "Damn, this isn't a lede." You know and there be some expletive in it, and, "This isn't a lede. Get out of here, bring me a lede." And so I go and, and I fix it and get it right, and then there were the guys like Frank Maier I remember who was one of my mentors. He was the best, he was one of the most, he was a longtime legendary Chicago bureau chief, wrote a cover story for Newsweek called on, on the first Mayor [Richard J.] Daley called ['Chicago's Daley:] How to Run a City.' Award, I mean just a beautiful piece of journalism, but very understated guy, and this guy when he would edit my copy, he would say, "So [HistoryMaker] Sylvester [Monroe], you know I read your story here, it's not, not bad, it's got some good stuff in it. But you know remember when you were telling me about this story before you went to go do it, how excited you were?" And I said, "Yeah." He said, "Why didn't you write it like that?" And that was the difference between this guys, these guys that I was terrified of and these guys that I wanted to do better to show them you know that I could do better. That their faith in me was not misplaced, and that's the way I learned to be a journalist.