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Leonard Pitts

Journalist and author Leonard Garvey Pitts, Jr. was born on October 11, 1957 in Orange, California to Leonard Garvey and Agnes Rowan Pitts. He grew up in the impoverished South Central section of Los Angeles, California. A successful student, Pitts skipped several grades and entered the University of Southern California at age fifteen, where he graduated with his B.A. degree in English in 1977.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Pitts worked as a freelance journalist, writing for publications ranging from Musician to Reader's Digest. From 1976 until 1980, Pitts worked for Soul magazine as writer and editor. In 1980, he was hired as a writer for KFWB radio in Los Angeles, and, from 1983 to 1986, he worked for a program called Radioscope. Pitts wrote scripts for several radio documentaries in the late 1980s, including King: From Atlanta to the Mountaintop, Who We Are, and Young Black Men: A Lost Generation. He was hired by Westwood One, Inc. in 1989, and then by the Miami Herald in 1991, where he served as a music critic. Then, in 1994, Pitts was promoted to columnist at the Miami Herald, where he authored a column on race, politics and culture. His column was picked up for syndication by the Knight Ridder News Service, and appeared in about 250 newspapers.

Pitts is also the author of four books. His first book, Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood was published in 1999; Before I Forget, Pitts’s first novel, was released in March 2009; Forward from This Moment: Selected Columns, 1994-2008 was published in August 2009; and Freeman, his second novel, was released in 2012. Pitts has also been invited to teach at a number of institutions, including Hampton University, Ohio University, the University of Maryland, and Virginia Commonwealth University. In 2011, he served as a visiting professor at Princeton University, and in 2013, he taught at George Washington University.

Pitts has received numerous awards. In 1997, he took first place for commentary in the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors' Ninth Annual Writing Awards competition. In 2001, Pitts received the American Society of Newspaper Editors ASNE Award for Commentary Writing, and was named Feature of the Year - Columnist by Editor and Publisher magazine. In 2002, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists awarded Pitts its inaugural Columnist of the Year award. In 2002 and in 2009, GLAAD Media awarded him the Outstanding Newspaper Columnist award, and, in 2004, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Pitts also received the National Association of Black Journalists’ Award of Excellence three times, and was chosen as NABJ’s 2008 Journalist of the Year. He is a five-time recipient of the Atlantic City Press Club’s National Headliners Award and a seven-time recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Green Eyeshade Award. Pitts has received honorary doctorate degrees in humane letters from Old Dominion University and Utica College.

Leonard Pitts was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 23, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.273

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/23/2013

Last Name

Pitts

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

G.

Schools

University of Southern California

John C. Fremont High School

San Pedro Street Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Leonard

Birth City, State, Country

Orange

HM ID

PIT31

Favorite Season

Fall

State

California

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

Doesn't Matter How Hard You Hit, It's How Hard You Can Get Hit And Stand Back Up

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

10/11/1957

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Shrimp, Red Beans and Rice, Dark Chocolate

Short Description

Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts (1957 - ) won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. He was a columnist at the Miami Herald for two decades, and the author of Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood, Before I Forget, Forward from This Moment: Selected Columns, 1994-2008, and Freeman.

Employment

RadioScope

Soul Magazine

KFWB Radio

Westwood One Inc.

Miami Herald

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Leonard Pitts' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Leonard Pitts lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Leonard Pitts describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Leonard Pitts describes the history of Natchez, Mississippi.

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Leonard Pitts describes her mother's education and occupation

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Leonard Pitts describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Leonard Pitts describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Leonard Pitts talks about his paternal family's land

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Leonard Pitts describes his father's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Leonard Pitts talks about his father's military service

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Leonard Pitts describes his parents' marriage

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Leonard Pitts describes his parents' occupations

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Leonard Pitts describes his paternal family's migration from Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Leonard Pitts describes his parents' personalities and his likeness to them

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Leonard Pitts describes his home life

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Leonard Pitts describes the South Central section of Los Angeles, California

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Leonard Pitts describes his early interest in writing

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Leonard Pitts describes the early influences on his writing

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Leonard Pitts describes his relationship with his parents

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Leonard Pitts remembers his elementary school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Leonard Pitts recalls singing in the junior choir at church

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Leonard Pitts remembers meeting Montie Montana

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Leonard Pitts talks about his academic strengths

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Leonard Pitts talks about his relationship with his father

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Leonard Pitts remembers his favorite foods from childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Leonard Pitts recalls his early submissions to literary magazines

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Leonard Pitts recalls his interest in popular culture

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Leonard Pitts remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Leonard Pitts remembers John C. Fremont High School in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Leonard Pitts recalls publishing his first poem

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Leonard Pitts recalls attending the Resident Honors Program at the University of Southern California

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Leonard Pitts recalls joining the staff of Soul magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Leonard Pitts remembers working as a music critic for Soul magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Leonard Pitts remembers writing negative music reviews

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Leonard Pitts remembers his favorite musical artists

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Leonard Pitts recalls graduating from University of Southern California

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Leonard Pitts remembers his marriage

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Leonard Pitts describes his experiences as a radio writer

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Leonard Pitts describes his growing interest in black history

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Leonard Pitts talks about his radio documentaries

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Leonard Pitts remembers joining the Miami Herald

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Leonard Pitts remembers the Los Angeles riots of 1992

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Leonard Pitts talks about Elvis Presley's relationship with the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Leonard Pitts talks about the social influence of music

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Leonard Pitts talks about the changes in popular music

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Leonard Pitts recalls his decision to stop writing music criticism

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Leonard Pitts talks about his impressions of early rap music

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Leonard Pitts recalls writing columns for the Miami Herald

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Leonard Pitts describes his experiences of racial discrimination at the Miami Herald

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Leonard Pitts describes his writing process

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Leonard Pitts talks about responding to his readers' criticism

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Leonard Pitts recalls writing 'Becoming Dad'

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Leonard Pitts shares his advice to fathers

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Leonard Pitts recalls his column about the attacks of September 11, 2001

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Leonard Pitts recalls his reaction to the O.J. Simpson trial

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Leonard Pitts recalls winning the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Leonard Pitts describes 'Before I Forget'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Leonard Pitts recalls receiving death threats for one of his columns, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Leonard Pitts recalls receiving death threats for one of his columns, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Leonard Pitts remembers writing 'Freeman'

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Leonard Pitts describes the reception of 'Freeman'

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Leonard Pitts talks about the importance of '12 Years a Slave'

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Leonard Pitts talks about the misunderstanding of African American history

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Leonard Pitts describes his plans for the future

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Leonard Pitts describes his journalistic philosophy

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Leonard Pitts reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Leonard Pitts reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Leonard Pitts talks about his family

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Leonard Pitts describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

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DATape

6$3

DAStory

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DATitle
Leonard Pitts recalls his column about the attacks of September 11, 2001
Leonard Pitts recalls his early submissions to literary magazines
Transcript
What was it about your column ['Sept. 12, 2001: We'll Go Forward From This Moment,' Leonard Pitts]? What did you say that really got people so excited?$$Have you re- have you read that paper at all?$$I've read parts of it.$$Yeah, it was--you know, I wrote that column--I began that column even before the second tower [South Tower of the World Trade Center, New York, New York] came down, I think. And I wrote it with a sense that we didn't--you know, at the time I started writing, we didn't know who had done this. We didn't know what the reasoning was. You know, so it was--and I couldn't write about Middle Eastern terrorism or domestic or whatever. So, I went with the only two things I did know, which was one, this made me very angry, and two, that I was--I believed that as Americans we would come together over this, and we would get whoever was responsible. And if you look at that column, it doesn't say anything terribly deep. Those are the only things that it says. And I think that what happened was that's what everybody was feeling. I think it caught what ever- what everyone was feeling. Because when that piece appeared the next day, I opened my email queue and there was, there were five hundred emails. And I went through them, and it there was far too many for me to answer. So I just sort of, you know, sorted through them and looked at a few, representative, and then closed the box. And after I clo- as I closed the box, there were a thousand. And every time I went through and sorted through them, there were five--there were more. And by the time I stopped counting, there were thirty thousand emails, you know, from that, from that particular column. It was just--it was just incredible.$$You said that--I guess whatever the gripe that the perpetrator had--you quoted in the column, you said, "You just damned your cause."$$Yeah, yeah. Which, you know, I think--I think there was a sense that, you know, you're going to make us--that they were going to make us fear, they were going to make us to, to respect their cause. And I felt that whoever did this--and I think, you know, the sense was that it was probably terrorism from somewhere afar--that they didn't, really didn't understand the character of this nation (laughter). And they didn't really understand the contrariness of this nation--that to do something like that is not going to win you respect and it's not going to win you--it's not going to win you fear. It's just going to resolve people that they're going to come get you.$$Okay. Richard Gephardt [Dick Gephardt], you know, read it on--$$Richard Gephardt read it. Regis Philbin read it on television. They set it to music, they put it on posters (laughter). That column went all over the place. That column did things that I've never seen any column by anybody ever do. It was just, it was, it was amazing. At some point--and people would ask me if I was proud of it. And it was sort of a, I had sort of a distance from it. It's like if you have four kids and you raise them, and you treat them all the same and you love them all the same, and three of them do well in life but, you know, the fourth one, you know, becomes a Nobel laureate, and goes to the moon or something. It's like, well, you know, I treated them all the same. So, it's hard for me to, to, to accept any special credit or claim on that one. It just--I wrote it, and it did what it did.$I also have a note here that you were sending stories to magazines at age twelve.$$Yeah. I started, I started submitting at twelve. I was first published at twelve, and--was it twelve? No, I was first published at fourteen in the L.A. Sentinel [Los Angeles Sentinel]. It wasn't a paying thing. The Sentinel is a black newspaper in L.A. [Los Angeles, California], and they published a poem of mine. But I started sending stuff out at twelve. There was a--you mentioned teachers that influenced you. When I was in junior high school, there was a librarian named Mr. Barbee, B-A-R-B-E-E, James Barbee [ph.]. And Mr. Barbee bought me a subscription to The Writer, which is a writers magazine. He was one of those teachers that, you know, sort of, he--you know, he had sympathy for me, I think, or empathy. And he used to let me hang out in the, in the library during recess, so I wouldn't have to deal with craziness from some of my classmates. And he bought me a subscription to The Writer. And I saw--you know, I'd read this and see that, oh, people will pay for this stuff. You know, you write, and people will--you send stuff out to magazines and people will send you money back. Okay, let's try this out (laughter). So, I started sending stuff out to magazines, literary magazines and things when I was twelve. And they sent it all right back. You know, and I still have, I still have some of those rejection notices.

James Eugene Clingman, Jr.

Businessman, author, and civic leader James E. Clingman, Jr. is a strong advocate of economic empowerment for African Americans. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio on August 11, 1944 to Verline Greene and James E. Clingman, Sr, he attended Paisley High School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina before graduating from Cincinnati’s Winthrow High School in 1963. He later earned his B.A. degree cum laude from the University of Cincinnati in 1977.

In 1985, Clingman was hired by Segmented Marketing Services as general manager, a position he held until 1988 when he formed his own consulting business, Clingman & Associates. In 1996, Clingman founded and served as president and executive director of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce.

In 1996, a year after he participated in the Million Man March, Clingman wrote One in a Million: Faces in the Crowd. Other books he has written and published include Economic Empowerment or Economic Enslavement – We Have a Choice and Black-O-Knowledge: Stuff We Need To Know . A former editor of the Cincinnati Herald newspaper and an adjunct professor of African American Studies at the University of Cincinnati, Clingman writes a nationally syndicated weekly column called “Blackonomics”.

A member of the Cincinnati Black Business Association and the Harvest Institute, an African American think tank, Clingman and his wife Sylvia live with their daughter Kiah in Sharonville, Ohio.

Accession Number

A2005.064

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/15/2005

Last Name

Clingman

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Eugene

Schools

Winthrow High School

Heberle Elementary School

University of Cincinnati

Paisley IB Magnet School

North Carolina Central University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

James

Birth City, State, Country

Cincinnati

HM ID

CLI03

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Negril, Jamaica

Favorite Quote

If Everyone Does A Little, All Of Us Can Have A Lot

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

8/11/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cincinnati

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Seafood, Pie (Cherry), Ice Cream

Short Description

Syndicated columnist James Eugene Clingman, Jr. (1944 - ) founded and served as the president and executive director of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce. He is also the author of Economic Empowerment or Economic Enslavement – We Have a Choice, and Black-O-Knowledge: Stuff We Need To Know, and writes a nationally syndicated weekly column called “Blackonomics."

Employment

United States Post Office

Westinghouse Corporation

James Clingman & Associates

African American Chamber of Commerce

Career Research Center

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
0,0:1968,46:2706,57:5002,95:5822,108:6314,116:7954,134:8528,142:9430,155:10004,163:10332,168:11316,187:20576,327:21115,336:21885,351:26582,461:26890,466:30814,507:31169,513:31595,520:33370,552:34932,577:35358,584:36281,601:38198,644:48413,799:49157,808:57497,1003:58344,1025:62425,1116:66044,1183:68662,1239:74240,1326:77438,1385:78140,1396:78608,1403:79232,1413:79934,1423:80636,1434:95100,1648:98780,1719:108424,1848:111994,1888:112402,1893:114136,1943:114952,1952:117094,1993:117808,2003:118522,2012:124440,2078$0,0:1656,37:2001,43:3588,76:4209,86:6141,123:7659,137:8142,146:8625,154:8970,160:9936,175:10626,186:11316,197:17910,306:18585,316:23460,397:26910,449:27810,468:28185,474:28710,482:29160,489:29460,494:30210,507:30660,515:31035,521:31560,530:33792,542:34128,547:35052,561:35808,578:37986,604:38688,616:42607,672:42972,678:43629,693:44578,712:45454,725:46622,757:46914,762:50893,799:51721,814:52963,835:53653,850:59104,967:59587,976:60001,983:60553,991:61795,1028:63244,1048:64072,1064:64417,1070:64693,1075:64969,1080:65797,1100:66832,1131:68695,1170:78600,1279:78880,1284:80000,1305:89398,1456:89782,1464:92406,1531:92790,1538:98600,1608:99280,1617:100980,1632:101405,1638:102085,1647:102510,1653:104720,1677:106675,1729:111600,1784:112040,1793:116092,1862:116976,1876:122280,2045:123640,2073:128164,2133:128860,2149:129266,2158:129498,2163:136080,2259:137440,2279:139200,2307:139840,2317:142320,2336:145840,2382:148264,2407:148600,2415:149104,2427:149552,2440:150448,2462:152825,2483:153224,2492:153680,2501:154421,2520:155105,2553:156587,2576:159174,2606:163206,2708:163494,2713:164286,2729:165006,2740:165654,2751:171456,2810:172303,2824:172919,2833:173458,2842:173766,2847:175768,2879:176076,2884:176615,2892:178694,2928:179156,2935:179464,2940:182082,2998:188068,3043:188383,3049:188950,3060:189202,3065:189895,3086:192240,3113
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating for James Eugene Clingman, Jr.'s interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. describes his maternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. remembers traveling to West Virginia and North Carolina to visit his grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. describes his paternal family history

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. explains why his parents migrated north to Cincinnati, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. describes his neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. remembers his great-grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. remembers his family's emphasis on church and school

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. describes his childhood personality and his initial interest in earning money

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. talks about his jobs as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. describes how he narrowly missed being sent to reform school as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. talks about moving to Winston-Salem, North Carolina as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. talks about his family's jobs

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. remembers encountering the Civil Rights Movement as a student at North Carolina College at Durham in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. remembers his time at North Carolina College at Durham in Durham, North Carolina, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. remembers performing with the choir at North Carolina College at Durham in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. remembers his time at North Carolina College at Durham in Durham, North Carolina, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. recalls joining the U.S. Navy in 1965

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. remembers his experience in the U.S. Navy

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. remembers being honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. remembers the day Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. talks about his first banking job

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. remembers his work as a counselor with the Citizens Committee on Youth in Cincinnati, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. talks about his experience at the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. charts his evolving interest in entrepreneurship

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. remembers moving to Chicago, Illinois to work for a marketing firm

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. explains what led to the founding of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. remembers the Million Man March inspiring the creation of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. reminisces about the Million Man March in 1995

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. talks about his hopes and disappointments with the Million Man March in 1995

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. remembers the legacy of Chicago, Illinois mayor Harold Washington

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. advocates for African Americans pooling their resources to work towards economic empowerment, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. advocates for African Americans pooling their resources to work towards economic empowerment, pt.2

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. talks about the necessity of economic empowerment

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. talks about his family

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. talks about his work establishing The Entrepreneur High School in Cincinnati, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. talks about the impact of religion on his life

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - James Eugene Clingman, Jr. narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

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DAStory

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DATitle
James Eugene Clingman, Jr. explains what led to the founding of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce
James Eugene Clingman, Jr. advocates for African Americans pooling their resources to work towards economic empowerment, pt.2
Transcript
Now, you've already introduced the subject of blacks and economics and ownership. All right. When are you able to take all of those various elements and combine them into this--you get this principle of Blackonomics that I've heard you mention.$$Well, I moved back to Cincinnati [Ohio] in 1990 and I had to get back into the swing of things. And I knew people here--comfort, you know, comfortable here, got back involved and did some volunteering. I got on some committees and everything. And this one group called Operation BootStrap--it was put together by Cincinnati's health director at that time, Stanley Broadnax. And I would go to meetings, and then they started breaking up into smaller committees and economic development committee. I said, that's where I want to be. And I wrote a position paper on why we should have an African American chamber of commerce here. In 1991, I wrote that paper, gave it to him. "Oh, this is great, Jim [HistoryMaker James Eugene Clingman, Jr.]." No-, nothing ever happened with it though. Eventually, Operation BootStrap went out of, of existence. And I started working for another program where I was working with ex-offenders, young men who had been in prison, helping them get, get jobs. And the chamber of commerce thing was like put on the back burner. But at that time, I was still doing a lot of volunteer work in, in the community, became active in different issues and things in, in Cincinnati, and worked for the agency with the young men. And then, I went back as a consultant to work in the employment and training division with Henry Christman again. He hired me to write some proposals to, to get grants, to start new programs. And with the Ford Foundation [New York, New York] and other, and other foundations, so I did that as a consultant. And along came the Million Man March in 1995, which I attended. And a year later, I founded the [Greater Cincinnati] African American Chamber of Commerce after presenting the idea to a group of people at a meeting, and they said yes, and we started that night.$I was in Tulsa, Oklahoma last--about three weeks ago, went to the Greenwood district, which you know is flourishing in the early 1900s. Some six hundred black businesses had everything from, from restaurants to, all the way up to an airline. Everything black folks needed, they had it right there in the Greenwood district. In 1921, it was destroyed, burned to the ground, burned to the ground because of an angry white mob came in and, and, and destroyed it. And three hundred people were killed. You look at those kinds of things, and even though it was back then during segregation, it shows you what can be done among people who are collective in their struggle, among people who are committed to being economically empowered. And we could do the same thing today if we would just use our resources in a collective manner in support of one another, as other groups are doing in this country every single day. You look at the Vietnamese. They've only been here for thirty years. They control the nail industry now. Koreans control the distribution of black hair care products. The, the people who came from India and Pakistan, two-thirds of the hotels and motels in this country owned by them. There is no way we should have dropped the economic ball in 1965, and just went and to play the political game alone. We should have stayed on boat. Nobody abandons their economic base. We did, and now we're paying dearly for it, trying to get back to where we were to where our brothers and sisters were, to where our elders were in 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. So, you know, I have some real deep feelings about that and major concerns about where we are versus how long we've been in this country, been here since it started. And, and there is a lot of work to do on the economic side, and that's why I'm so committed to it.$$Okay. So, is that the message we're going to read when we visit your website--$$Oh, yes.$$--or columns in the newspapers--$$Yes.$$--letters to the editors?$$That's right.$$It's the same message?$$It's the same message.$$Economics--$$Economic empowerment--$$Okay.$$--economic empowerment. The only way we can fight in this country to make an impact is with our dollars. All we say that the, the new battlefield is the marketplace and the weapons are dollars. If we don't use that, use the $723 billion, collectively, that we earn, and it's rising that we don't use that in some way to leverage the things that we say we want and need and to build an economic foundation for our children, we're being, we're not being good stewards of what God has given us. We're just being slothful as it says in the Bible. We're just squandering our resources. How can you have that much money, and tremendous amounts of intellectual capital, and not be further along, and not be higher on the economic scale in this country than we are today? And even further back, relatively speaking, than our elders were back during the days of Tulsa and Durham, North Carolina, which was a flourishing business enclave for black people and many other cities around, around the country as well.

George Curry

George Edward Curry was born on February 23, 1947, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; his mother worked as a domestic and his father was a mechanic. Curry's father abandoned the family when Curry was just seven years old, leaving him to step into the role of the man of the house, assisting his mother in raising his three younger sisters. In 1965, Curry earned his high school diploma from Druid High School, where he was a member of the football team and sports editor of the school newspaper.

In 1966, Curry moved to New York where he worked for The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) for a year. He went on to study at Knoxville College in Tennessee. Fulfilling a lifelong dream, Curry began his professional journalism career as a reporter for Sports Illustratedmagazine in 1970; he was the second African American hired by the publication.

After leaving Sports Illustrated in 1972, Curry headed west and worked as a beat reporter for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch until 1983. In 1977, he founded the St. Louis Minority Journalism Workshop, a training program for aspiring high school journalists; that same year, he wrote his first book Jake Gaither: America’s Most Famous Black Coach. From 1983 until 1989, Curry worked for the Chicago Tribune as a Washington Correspondent, covering political stories such as Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign. From 1989 until 1993, Curry worked as the New York bureau chief of the Tribune. From there, Curry served as editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine until it folded and printed its final edition in 2000; under his leadership the magazine won more than forty national journalism awards.

In 2001, Curry became editor-in-chief for the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service, or NNPA, and BlackPressUSA.com; his weekly syndicated column appeared in more than two hundred African American newspapers. While at NNPA, Curry’s work has included covering the Supreme Court’s decision on the University of Michigan’s affirmative action case and America’s war with Iraq.

In 2003, Curry was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists; he is also on NABJ’s list of Most Influential Black Journalists of the 20th Century.

George Curry was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 27, 2004.

Curry passed away on August 22, 2016.

Accession Number

A2004.182

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/27/2004

Last Name

Curry

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Druid High School

Central Elementary School

32nd Avenue Elementary School

University of Alabama

Knoxville College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

George

Birth City, State, Country

Tuscaloosa

HM ID

CUR02

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Santa Barbara, California; Cairo, Egypt

Favorite Quote

Let The Door Hit You Where God Split You.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

2/23/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chocolate Cake

Death Date

8/20/2016

Short Description

Syndicated columnist and newspaper editor George Curry (1947 - 2016 ) served as editor-in-chief of Emerge Magazine until it stopped publishing in 2000. Curry later became editor-in-chief for the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service and BlackPressUSA.com.

Employment

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

Sports Illustrated Magazine

St. Louis Post Dispatch

Chicago Tribune

Tribune

Emerge Magazine

National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and blackpressusa.com

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of George Curry's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - George Curry lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - George Curry describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - George Curry describes his mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - George Curry shares his memories of his father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - George Curry talks about his maternal grandmother, Sylvia Harris

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - George Curry talks about his paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - George Curry shares his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - George Curry recalls his childhood experiences

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - George Curry talks about his siblings and his childhood community

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - George Curry describes his childhood role models

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - George Curry describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - George Curry talks about his experience in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - George Curry talks about the importance of his stepfather, William Polk, on his intellectual development

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - George Curry describes his childhood personality

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - George Curry describes his experience with racism in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - George Curry describes his childhood ambitions

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - George Curry describes his experience at Druid High School in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - George Curry describes his experience at Druid High School in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - George Curry describes his personality in high school and his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - George Curry talks about his pastor and meeting Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - George Curry describes his childhood experience with church

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - George Curry describes working to raise money for college

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - George Curry describes his experience at Knoxville College, Knoxville, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - George Curry describes his experience at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - George Curry talks about working for the newspaper at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - George Curry describes his football experiences at Knoxville College in Knoxville, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - George Curry describes his interest in journalism at Knoxville College, in Knoxville, Tennessee and being hired by Sports Illustrated in 1970

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - George Curry describes his experience at Sports Illustrated magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - George Curry describes his experience writing for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - George Curry describes his sisters' reactions to his success as a journalist, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - George Curry describes his sisters' reactions to his success as a journalist, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - George Curry describes the founding of the St. Louis Minority Journalism Workshop in 1977

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - George Curry describes leaving the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to write for the Chicago Tribune

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - George Curry recalls becoming editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine in 1993

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - George Curry recalls publishing the story of Kemba Smith at Emerge magazine in 1996

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - George Curry describes the publication of Lori S. Robinson's story "Rape of a Spelman Coed" in Emerge magazine in 1997

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - George Curry talks about Emerge magazine's cover depictions of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - George Curry describes the end of Emerge magazine and its replacement, Savoy magazine

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - George Curry talks about his plans for the future of Emerge magazine and his books

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - George Curry talks about being editor-in-chief for the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA)

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - George Curry reflects upon his career

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - George Curry shares his advice for young African American journalists

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - George Curry reflects on his choice to become a journalist

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - George Curry reflects on how he would like to be remembered and his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - George Curry narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

2$7

DATitle
George Curry describes the founding of the St. Louis Minority Journalism Workshop in 1977
George Curry talks about Emerge magazine's cover depictions of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
Transcript
Let's talk a little bit about some of the work that you did in St. Louis [Missouri] with--when, when you started your student journalism workshops [St. Louis Minority Journalism Workshop] in--around 1977. Why did you decide to do that?$$Good question. I--growin' up, I had never met a black journalist, and I don't want these high school kids to be able to say the same thing, so Gerald Boyd, who was a manag--the first black manager ever at the New York Times, and Sheila Rule, who worked for the New York Times--his ex-wife, among other people, all part of the black journalist group [Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists], said we wanna start--we want our own organization, and started the workshop. So I got the job to be the director of the, of the workshop. And basically, it was a program of seven or eight Saturdays, all day, taught by professional journalists, and the students were high school students. The idea was to give them a sample of what journalism was like; we would have them writin' on deadlines, we have the mayor come in for press conference or Congressman Bill Clay [HM William Clay, Sr.] come in for press conference; they would have to write, they would have to put out a newspaper, and everything else. We had no idea the impact that would have at the time; we just sayin', "This is a good thing." So we started that in 1977, and when I moved to Washington [D.C.], which I'll catch up a little bit, we started one here, we started one in New York; now, there are twenty-five workshops around the country patterned after the St. Louis--on the St. Louis model. But the best part is I have students who have gone through my workshop who are now not only my colleagues, but they started their own workshop. Of all the things I've done in my life, I'm proudest of that; I'm proudest of that, and I'm proud that the people who went through our workshop realized that they had an obligation to reach back to the next generation, and the idea is that generation will reach to the next one, and that's somethin' Mr. [Robert] Glynn taught me.$$Were you active in the National Association of Black Journalists, NABJ?$$Yeah, I've been active in it. What was it--2003, I was Journalist of the Year (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous)--Journalist of the Year (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous)--Last year--I had to remember (laughter), yes; but it wasn't my priority. My priority has always been these kids, so when I was goin' to different cities, I--although I was president of the St. Louis Chapter once; they kind of drafted me to doin' it; I never wanted to do that. My goal has always been the children because--some of the journalist, by the time they become journalist they, you know, you, you can't do a whole lot with them at that point. They don't wanna learn, or they're closed, but kids are curious and they have so much potential, and I've always gotten the greatest satisfaction from that.$Any other stories from the magazine [Emerge]?$$I had a lot of 'em--the [Supreme Court Justice] Clarence Thomas one is one that people talk about the most. We (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous)--And these are the, the covers?$$Yeah, we (laughter), we decided we'd (laughter)--well, let me give you the background. We--what I wanna do was a--Clarence Thomas was on the [U.S.] Supreme Court--there was a--in the, in the community, there were very mixed feelin's about whether to support him or not, knowin' that he was a, a zealot--right-wing zealot. There were some people, even the civil right establishment, sayin', "Give him a chance; when he gets on, he's gonna change." And there were other people sayin', "Not in this lifetime--not even the after-life." So, my initial story I did, which somehow gets lost in all this because of the fanfare around the cover, was that I would go back to people who had initially said, "Let's give him a chance," go back to them, I think, two years later and ask 'em what they think. And boy, what they--they said worse than anything I would say. That was the idea. So, the stories are ready and everything, and we had a story meetin', and I walked in the conference room and looked at Flo [Florestine Purnell], I said, "Well, gimme a rundown on a story;" that's the way we did it--she would tell me where we are. So she got to the Clarence Thomas story and she said--I said, "Well, gimme a description of it." She said, "Well, the people who had supported him, they are, they are basically--how do I put this? They're basically callin' him a handkerchief head." And I started laughin', and she knew--Flo knows me; she knew immediately what that meant. The rest of the staff men didn't, but it did wind--said, "Well then, let's put a handkerchief on his head." And the art director said--Wayne Fitzpatrick said, "You're kiddin' aren't you?" I say, "No, I'm not kiddin', I mean it." So, I said, "Let's do it." So, we had the artist--they, they draw sketches before they do a cover and a paintin'--they, they'll do a sketch of it. So they sent me a--some sketches to choose from. Well, they had some sketches that basically looked like the, the gang rag tied to--I say, "No, no, no, no; I want the knot. I want the Aunt Jemima knot on it." And my art director say, "You sure?" I say, "I'm absolute sure of this." And so we did the (laughter)--just that, and boy did that create a ruckus. Most of the people--It was almost evenly split, to my surprise; I thought people would just agree with us; it was about evenly split that first time 'cause they really hadn't gotten to know the damage that he could do, and so--ev--but everybody talked about it, and they--and Randall Robinson--I remember TransAfrica--he say--I showed him a copy when it got off the print--hadn't even bound it yet. "I gotta have it, I gotta have it." And so we did that, then I think a couple years later, we ran him--I think three years later, we ran him as a lawn jockey, you know, and then the artwork inside with him shinin' [Antonin] Scalia's shoes. I want--I--these are original artwork, and I--the second time we ran--the second cover, everybody was agreein' with us by then. But I bought the original artwork, and I said, "Now, what can I do with this? I, I, I don't wanna look at Clarence Thomas every day. Where, where can I put him in the house?" And so I put him in the toilet, which was the appropriate place. People come in the bathroom, and they would come in and then run right back out, they don't stay long. And so we were noted for our covers because we didn't have marketing. The only advertising we got was on BET [Black Entertainment Television], which is not our crowd; that's what Bob [Robert Johnson] did 'cause he owns it, and so we--but people talked about our covers. We ran Ward Connerly as a puppet one time; had little strings on him. We, we, we were bold (laughter).