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David A. Wilson

Journalist and media executive David A. Wilson was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1977 to Vernon and Beverly Wilson. One of ten children, he was raised in the Georgia King Village housing projects in Newark. Wilson went on to attend Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. In 1997, during his sophomore year in college, he was hired as an intern at WABC-TV in New York City, where he worked on the show Like It Is and was mentored by Gil Noble. Wilson received his B.S. degree in communications from Rowan University in 1999.

Upon graduation, Wilson worked at the assignment desk for local news outlets. In 2000, he was hired at Network News Service (NNS), where he served as lead producer and oversaw newsroom operations. Wilson went on to research and develop content for the award-winning CBS News program 48 Hours. In 2005, he left his job at CBS, co-founded the film production company Three Part Media LLC, and began work on the film Meeting David Wilson, a documentary that chronicles Wilson’s personal journey to find answers to today's racial disparities in America, where he served as director and writer. Meeting David Wilson premiered on MSNBC in 2008, and won the Radio-Television News Directors Association/UNITY: Journalists of Color Award.

In 2009, following the success of Meeting David Wilson, Wilson and Three Part Media founded NBC News’ TheGrio.com, the first video-centric news community site devoted to providing African Americans with stories and perspectives that are underrepresented in existing national news outlets. Wilson first served as managing editor of TheGrio, and was named executive editor in 2011. In 2013, TheGrio became a division of the MSNBC cable channel.

Wilson has been honored as one of The Network Journal‘s 40 Under 40.

David Wilson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 19, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.063

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/19/2014

Last Name

Wilson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

Andre

Organizations
Schools

Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School

Milton Hershey School

Arts High School

Rowan University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

David

Birth City, State, Country

Newark

HM ID

WIL71

Favorite Season

May, September

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bahia, Brazil

Favorite Quote

You Are The Best You That Anyone Can Be. Don’t Forfeit That One Advantage In Life By Trying To Be Someone That You’re Not.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

4/15/1977

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Thai Chicken Red Curry

Short Description

Journalist and media executive David Wilson (1977 - ) wrote and directed the film Meeting David Wilson and cofounded TheGrio.com.

Employment

Network News Service

CBS News

Three Part Media LLC

TheGrio.com

WABC-TV

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of David Wilson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - David Wilson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - David Wilson describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - David Wilson talks about his father's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - David Wilson describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - David Wilson lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - David Wilson describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - David Wilson remembers the hardships of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - David Wilson remembers the Georgia King Village housing project in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - David Wilson describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - David Wilson describes his home in the Georgia King Village projects

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - David Wilson describes his family life

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - David Wilson talks about his father's abuse

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - David Wilson reflects upon his relationship with his father

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - David Wilson remembers growing up with ten siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - David Wilson talks about the 13th Avenue/Dr. MLK, Jr. School in Newark, New Jersey, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - David Wilson describes the quality of the education system in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - David Wilson talks about the 13th Avenue/Dr. MLK, Jr. School in Newark, New Jersey, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - David Wilson describes his decision to enroll at the Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - David Wilson recalls his family's response to his enrollment at the Milton Hershey School

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - David Wilson describes his decision to leave the Milton Hershey School

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - David Wilson remembers returning to Newark, New Jersey to attend Newark Arts High School

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - David Wilson describes his early interest in art

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - David Wilson talks about the alumni of Newark Arts High School in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - David Wilson remembers his interests during high school

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - David Wilson remembers his friends at Newark Arts High School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - David Wilson recalls his decision to attend Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - David Wilson remembers developing an interest in documentary film

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - David Wilson remembers the influence of Gil Noble

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - David Wilson talks about his experiences at Rowan University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - David Wilson recalls the influence of Professor Ned Eckhardt

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - David Wilson talks about his internship with Gil Noble

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - David Wilson remembers covering the assault of Abner Louima

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - David Wilson recalls covering the death of Betty Shabazz

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - David Wilson describes his short film 'Hidden Heroes: African American Women in WWII'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - David Wilson remembers his first job as a production secretary for '48 Hours'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - David Wilson describes his experiences of racial discrimination at CBS

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - David Wilson talks about 'The Ananda Lewis Show'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - David Wilson remembers the production tactics on 'The Ananda Lewis Show'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - David Wilson describes the beginnings of the 'Meeting David Wilson' project

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - David Wilson remembers the production of 'Meeting David Wilson'

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - David Wilson talks about the release of 'Meeting David Wilson'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - David Wilson talks about the creation of 'Meeting David Wilson'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - David Wilson reflects upon the documentary filmmaking process

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - David Wilson remembers the premiere of 'Meeting David Wilson'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - David Wilson recalls lessons from the making of 'Meeting David Wilson'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - David Wilson talks about the reception of 'Meeting David Wilson'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - David Wilson remembers launching TheGrio

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - David Wilson describes the process of creating TheGrio

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - David Wilson talks about TheGrio's early competitors

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - David Wilson describes the challenges of building an online news source

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - David Wilson talks about his plans for TheGrio

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - David Wilson talks about the racial gap in digital entrepreneurship

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - David Wilson describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - David Wilson describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - David Wilson talks about the legacy of TheGrio

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - David Wilson reflects upon his generation's legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - David Wilson reflects upon his legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

6$6

DATitle
David Wilson remembers the influence of Gil Noble
David Wilson describes the beginnings of the 'Meeting David Wilson' project
Transcript
And, you know, are you familiar with Gil Noble?$$Yes.$$A legend--TV legend.$$We had wanted to do his interview and didn't get a chance.$$Oh. He, he changed my life. He changed my life. I was a bumbling, super stuttering, under confident kid. And the ritual with Gil was that, I would get there at WABC [WABC-TV, New York, New York] around eight o'clock in the morning. He would have me read the newspapers, and he would then have me come into his office and have me talk about what are the top stories and to explain and to articulate my views on those stories. And that did more for me than anything else. And he said, "Well," and he would give me exercises, you know, because at that time, I thought--I flirted with the idea of actually being on air. So he said, "Okay. Take a newspaper and you read the newspaper and you do it as if you're reading the news--the teleprompter." And I'll go home, read, you know, as I practiced. And it--you know, what it really got me comfortable with doing is being able to talk in public, and being able to be opinionated and share my thoughts in public. And he would have me sit down and watch interviews of--with, you know, Adam Clayton Powell [Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.]; interviews with Betty Shabazz. Every morning I would get a call, and, you know, I would answer his phone and I'll hear this voice, like, "Hello, David [HistoryMaker David Wilson]. Is Gil there?" I was like, "Who is this?" "It's Charlie Rangel [HistoryMaker Charles B. Rangel]," every, every morning. And, you know, calls from Charlie Rangel, Nipsey Russell, Percy Sutton; you know, giants. And, you know, they'd come by. Dr. ben-Jochannan [HistoryMaker Yosef ben-Jochannan], you know, the Egyptologist. These were his friends. And it was just really good. And that summer was really important because it's also--two big stories broke that summer. The Abner Louima case? And then also the, the death of Betty Shabazz. And so that was important that summer. I learned a lot that summer. And he taught me one thing that was really important, because, before I was not one who wanted to--you know, I come from Newark [New Jersey], and I didn't want to--I always wanted to distance myself from being the (gesture) black guy. The guy who did the black things. And I had an opportunity at NYABJ [New York Association of Black Journalists] when they were honoring Gil Noble, and his daughters were there, and I was so happy they were there, 'cause I got the opportunity--I was being--we received--TheGrio [thegrio.com] received an award, and I got to say something to his daughters, which was, "Look, you know, Gil taught me that it was no less of a virtue to cover news that impacted my community." You know, I had always wanted to be--do mainstream stuff and just stay mainstream, and he taught me that there was no shame and it was just as virtuous to cover black topics and to be a black journalist. And that--I can tell you right now with 100 percent certainty that if I had not encountered Gil Noble in my life, we wouldn't be here right now, because I certainly wouldn't be doing TheGrio [thegrio.com]--I don't know where I would be. And then, you know, my first student documentary project, when I got back to school [Rowan College of New Jersey; Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey], was a documentary called 'Hidden Heroes: African American Women in WWII.' And I that doc--it was about a ten minute doc--and I got Gil Noble to voiceover, do the voiceover on it. And we won several awards. The documentary was inducted into the women's memorial [Women in Military Service for America Memorial] in Arlington, Virginia.$$So let me ask you, did he ever tell you what he saw in you? Because he died when?$$Just maybe two years ago (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Two years ago.$$Um-hm.$$'Cause--his collection, you know. What happened to his collection?$$Oh, he had all of, you know, tons of foota- he has the largest--$$I know but what happened to it?$$I don't know. I mean it's (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) That was the thing, I think, people were questioning.$$Oh. He owned that, and he, he, he--$$He owned that--$$--and that was the pride of his life, his collection.$$Right. I just don't know what had happened to it. But 'cause he had gotten ill, right?$$Yeah.$And so, as, you know, I left and, and I--just so happened that, November, I'd done a little gig to help make ends meet for Victoria's Secret Fashion Show shoot, and I ended up meeting my, still business partner today, at that shoot. And had I never left that, you know, 'The Ananda Lewis Show,' I would have never met my current business partner. And we started doing some things. We had a business that we had started doing TV pilots. That didn't go anywhere. And then we launched another business doing sort of CD business cards. We had these business--CD business--CD business card CDs--business sized CDs that we would then go out and produce content for different corporations for, and put them on these cards. Somebody forgot to tell us that the Internet existed, and the business failed. But we did have some good clients. We had Penguin Books, was one of our clients. We had some other folks. And we got a lot of press coverage. We were in Newsweek, Black Enterprise, you know. We got some good coverage. And then it--$$Now did you ever come across [HistoryMaker] Clayton Banks and Ember Media in the--and that--'cause he had been doing that too? But he's older than you.$$No. Not that I--$$Okay. Okay.$$No.$$All right.$$No. No. I don't recall ever meeting him or that name.$$So your business partner, say his name again.$$Dan Woolsey.$$Dan Woolsey.$$Um-hm.$$Okay. And can you tell us about Dan?$$Dan is from Chevy Chase, Maryland. Sort of, you know, just a very white bread sort of guy, all-American white guy. We come from sort of completely different backgrounds, you know. He grew in middle of, you know, Chevy Chase, Maryland. His father is R. James Woolsey [R. James Woolsey, Jr.], former head of the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency]. And we still to this day have a very contentious relationship, but it's always good, you know. I always say that we're always on the same page, but never on the same paragraph or we're least, we're always on the same page, but not reading the same line. And--but we work well together because we're always making each other better. And so, at this particular time, doing the business, I just started to get interested in my family history. I always had an interest in my family history, because I always was curious about how did, you know, how did we end up in Newark [New Jersey], and you know, all of this. I always had this awareness of, well, how did I end of here? And so I started doing research, and I, obviously, worked at '48 Hours,' and so now I knew how to actually do research and find people and dig up information. And so I used that sort of skillset and knowledge from doing investigative reporting to start looking into my family's history. And I would tell Dan some of the things that I found out about my family. I told him that I found out about this white guy in North Carolina who was a direct descendant of my family's former slave owners, and, you know, his name is the same of mine, David Wilson, and that he owns this plantation--the--still the plantation--the plantation that used to be the plantation where my family was enslaved on, the land. So Dan was like, "Oh, you have to do a documentary. You got to do something with that." And I'm like, eh, I wasn't motivated by it. I never wanted to be on camera. And, you know, I had had my time where with the idea of being an on camera reporting, and I just knew that it wasn't something for me, and I didn't want to do it. And he kept on convincing me, and so eventually I relented. And at this particular time, I had gotten a--I had started working at CBS again. They had called me back to be--for a job at CBS in--Network News Service [Network News Service, LLC], which is an ABC, CBS, and Fox News conglomerate. And I eventually rose up the ranks and became lead producer there. It was never anything I was interested in. It was just a job. But Dan convinced me, he said, "Okay. Let's do this documentary." And I called my other buddy, Barion [Barion Grant], who went to high school with me [at Arts High School, Newark, New Jersey], and I said, "Well, Da- Barion, we're about to do this documentary ['Meeting David Wilson']. You should come." Barion had worked on 'Tupac Resurrection' documentary for MTV [Music Television; MTV]. And we, we started working on it.

The Honorable Ben Holbert

Journalist and political leader Ben Holbert was born on March 6, 1959 in Cleveland, Ohio to Benjamin, Jr. and Mollie Holbert. He graduated from Benedictine High School in Cleveland, Ohio in 1977, received his B.A. degree in communications from Kent State University in 1984, and his M.B.A. degree from University of Phoenix in 2012.

Holbert began his professional career in broadcast journalism and served as a reporter and anchor at several media outlets in the Cleveland television market, including WJKW-TV, WKYC TV-NBC, WVIZ-PBS, WUAB-TV-43/WOIO-CBS, and WJMO-1490-AM, from 1985 to 2005. He also worked as vice president and general manager of the Cleveland Television Network from 2001 to 2002, and served as general assignment reporter at WKYC-TV, NBC from 2002 to 2005. He was director of communications at Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, in Decatur, Georgia from 2006 to 2007, and served as interim chief communications officer at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District from 2007 to 2008. He was also a senior partnership specialist at the U.S. Census Bureau from 2009 to 2010. Holbert was an aide and executive assistant to the commission president of Cuyahoga County from 2010 to 2011. He established and served as president at Holbert Enterprises in 2010; and, in 2011, was elected city councilman, later becoming city council president for the Village of Woodmere, Ohio, remaining until 2017. Holbert subsequently worked as the Cleveland chapter parliamentarian for National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) in 2014, and was a business specialist at the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District from 2014 to 2016. He also served as adjunct professor at Cleveland State University in 2016. The following year, he launched a local restaurant called Sides 2 Go BBQ. In 2017, Holbert was the second African American elected mayor of the Village of Woodmere, Ohio.

Holbert has received numerous honors and awards including Kent State University- Outstanding Alumni Award and Community Service Award, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity-Omega Man of the Year, Village of Woodmere-Council Member Award, and Knights of Peter Claver-Image Award. He was inducted into the Benedictine High School Hall of Distinction. He was also the recipient of four Emmy Awards for journalistic reporting and the Akron (Ohio) Broadcasters Hall of Fame “Personality of the Year”.

Ben Holbert was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 24, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.188

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/24/2018

Last Name

Holbert

Maker Category
Organizations
First Name

Ben

Birth City, State, Country

Cleveland

HM ID

HOL23

Favorite Season

Late Summer And Early Fall

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean, Bahamas

Favorite Quote

Friendship Is Essential To The Soul.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

3/6/1959

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cleveland

Country

United States of America

Favorite Food

Steak

Short Description

Journalist and political leader Ben Holbert (1959 - ) served as a reporter and anchor in the Greater Cleveland area for twenty-five years before being the second African American elected mayor of the Village of Woodmere, Ohio in 2017.

Favorite Color

Purple

Jeraldine Williams

Journalist and lawyer Jeraldine Williams was born on January 14, 1946 in Ybor City, Florida to Mildred Williams and Judge Williams. Williams graduated from George S. Middleton High School in 1963, and enrolled at the University of Florida, where she and thirteen other African American students integrated the College of Journalism. Williams received her B.S. degree in journalism and communication in 1967, and was the first African American to be awarded the Hearst Journalism Award. Upon graduating, she accepted a position as a general assignment reporter at The St. Petersburg Times. Williams earned her M.B.A. degree from Atlanta University in 1972.

During the early 1970s, Williams worked as an assistant manager at First Federal Savings and Loan before becoming the first African American female manager of Freedom Savings and Loan in Tampa, Florida in 1973. She also worked as an education planner and state coordinator with the Model Cities Program for the City of Tampa. Williams enrolled at the Florida State University College of Law in 1977, earning her J.D. degree in 1981. She was then hired by the Florida Department of Insurance, where she worked as a staff attorney. In 1982, she became the owner and publisher of the Capitol Outlook newspaper in Tallahassee, Florida. In the early 1990s, Williams moved to South Africa, where she worked as a writer for Ebony - South Africa. She also established Management Consultancies and conceptualized her book Up to the Bottom while living in Johannesburg, South Africa. Upon returning to the United States in the late 1990s, Williams practiced law with her daughter, Salesia Smith-Gordon, in Palm Beach, Florida before moving to Hillsborough County, Florida, where she worked as an attorney in the 13th Judicial Circuit Court.

Williams helped to establish the Greater Tampa Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., and served on the board of the Bob Gilbertson Central City Family YMCA. She also served on the board of the Joshua House, Infants and Young Children of West Central Florida, Inc. and founded the East Ybor Historic & Civic Association, Inc. She was also a marathon runner, participating in a Lymphoma and Leukemia marathon in 2001, the 60-mile walk for Breast Cancer in 2006, and the Egyptian Pyramids Marathon for Infants and Young Children of West Central Florida, Inc. in 2011. Williams received the Tampa NAACP’s Living Legend Award in 2015 and the Griot Drum Award from the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists in 2017.

Williams has one daughter, Salesia Smith-Gordon, one son, Walter L. Smith, II, and one grandson, Walter L. Smith, III.

Jeraldine Williams was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 9, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.182

Sex

Female

Interview Date

9/9/2018

Last Name

Williams

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
First Name

Jeraldine

Birth City, State, Country

Tampa

HM ID

WIL86

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Florida

Favorite Vacation Destination

South Africa

Favorite Quote

I Lift Up My Eyes Into The Hills, From Whence Cometh My Help. My Help Cometh From The Lord, Which Made Heaven And Earth.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Birth Date

1/14/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Tampa

Country

United States of America

Favorite Food

Guava

Short Description

Journalist and lawyer Jeraldine Williams (1946 - ) was the owner of the newspaper Capitol Outlook, in addition to practicing law for over thirty years.

Favorite Color

Earth Tones

Stacey F. Tisdale

Journalist Stacey F. Tisdale was born on November 10, 1966 in Bridgeport, Connecticut to Charles B. and Jettie S. Tisdale. Tisdale received her B.S. degree in international business and finance in 1988 from Marymount College, in Tarrytown, New York.

Tisdale worked on Wall Street as a cash manager for commodities firm Balfour Maclaine International, and worked on the trading floor of the Coffee Sugar Coca Exchange. Tisdale served as a writer for the Dow Jones newswire service, Telerate. She produced, wrote, reported and hosted programming for Wall Street Journal Television, which became CNBC (Consumer News and Business Channel). Tisdale served as business correspondent at CBS News, CBS MarketWatch, The Early Show, CBS Evening News, and CBS Radio from 1996 to 2000. She also hosted a show on Tech Live, TechTV’s daily news program and served as a financial reporter at CNN (Cable News Network) where she filed business and consumer reports for all of the CNN networks, including, CNN, CNNI and Headline News and Marketsource from 2000 to 2004. She reported for Inside Africa, a weekly news magazine show on CNN International and contributed reports to Money Talks, the nationally syndicated program created by BusinessWeek. Tisdale appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show as a financial expert and in O, The Oprah Magazine. She wrote for Essence magazine, and co-authored the book, The True Cost of Happiness: The Real Story Behind Managing Your Money.

In 2010, Tisdale founded Mind, Money, Media Inc., a production company. Tisdale launched WinningPlay$, the curriculum and behavior-based financial literacy program, was awarded the U.S. Department of Education’s Excellence in Economic Education Award. In 2011, The National Association of Black Journalists awarded Stacey Tisdale its Community Service Award for the WinningPlays$ program.

Tisdale reported for PBSnational news magazine show Need to Know, and PBS Newshour Weekend. A financial expert on NBC’s Today Show, she was also a blogger for the Huffington Post – Black Voices platform, and business correspondent for Al Jazeera America from 2013 to 2014. She served as senior editor of personal finance at Black Enterprise.

Tisdale also created financial education and life skills programs customized for professional sports teams and corporations including the Washington Mystics of the WNBA, the New York Giants of the NFL, and the female employees of Microsoft. She served on the advisory committee for The Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair for Media, Culture, and Feminist studies at Rutgers University.

Tisdale has one son, Christopher.

Stacey F. Tisdale was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 29, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.137

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/29/2018

Last Name

Tisdale

Maker Category
Middle Name

F.

Occupation
Organizations
First Name

Stacey

Birth City, State, Country

Bridgeport

HM ID

TIS01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Connecticut

Favorite Vacation Destination

St. Martin

Favorite Quote

You Are Already Perfect. If You Don't Believe That, It Is Due To A Poverty Of Your Understanding. Get Rid Of That Understanding And You'll Be Rich.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

11/10/1966

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken and Macaroni and Cheese

Short Description

Journalist Stacey F. Tisdale (1966- ) served as a financial reporter for CNN, The Early Show, CBS Evening News, and CBS Radio.

Favorite Color

Blue

Don Terry

Journalist Don Terry was born on July 30, 1957 in Evanston, Illinois to Jeanne Katherine Ober and Bill Terry. Terry graduated from St. Mary's High School in 1975, and received his B.A. degree in American history from Oberlin College in 1979. He then earned his M.A. degree in magazine journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 1980.

Terry began his journalism career at the Chicago Defender, where he worked as a staff writer. He went on to write for several newspapers in the Midwest, including the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the St. Paul Dispatch. In 1988, Terry joined The New York Times as a staff writer in the metro section. Over time, Terry became a national correspondent, and many of his articles focused on legal and social injustice issues. He also covered subjects ranging from the El Rukns Chicago gang convictions in 1991 to the Los Angeles riots in 1992 to serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s conviction. In 2000, Terry’s article, “Getting Under My Skin: A White Mother and A Black Father Left Him This Legacy” was published as part of a New York Times series called “How Race is Lived in America,” garnering Terry and the other reporters the 2001 Pulitzer Prize. From 2001 to 2009, Terry worked as a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He also contributed to the Chicago News Cooperative and the Columbia Journalism Review; and wrote a weekly column for the Chicago Sun-Times for many years. From 2012 to 2015, Terry worked as a senior writer at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Terry became the national press secretary and communications director at the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition in 2016, working closely with Reverend Jesse L. Jackson.

Terry received several awards over his journalism career, including the Studs Terkel Media Award in 1997 as well as the Chicago Tribune’s Writing Award and the Peter Lisagor Award, both in 2003. In 2009, Terry received an Encore fellowship from the Columbia Journalism Review.

Terry is married to attorney Rebecca Ford Terry.

Don Terry was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 23, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.027

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/23/2018

Last Name

Terry

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
First Name

Don

Birth City, State, Country

Evanston

HM ID

TER08

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Province Town, Massachusetts

Favorite Quote

It’s Time For Dinner.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

7/30/1957

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Favorite Food

Salmon Croquettes

Short Description

Journalist Don Terry (1957 - ) was a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune. He also worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

Favorite Color

Green

Ida E. Lewis

Journalist Ida E. Lewis was born on September 22, 1934 in Malvern, Pennsylvania to Grace Walker Lewis and Samuel Lewis. She graduated from Swarthmore High School in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania in 1952. Then, she earned her bachelor’s degree in public relations and journalism from Boston University in 1956.

Lewis began her career as a reporter at the New York Amsterdam News in 1957. Later, she was hired at the African American-owned newspaper The New York Age, where she stayed until 1961. After leaving The New York Age, she worked as a director of research at Small Investors Real Estate Plan, Inc. Then, Lewis moved to Paris, France, where she lived for six years. During that time, she worked as a contributing writer for publications including Le Monde, Le Figaro Litteraire and Jeune Afrique. She also interviewed African dignitaries for the British Broadcasting Corporation; reported from Africa on assignment with Life magazine; and wrote her first essay collection, The Deep Ditch and The Narrow Pit. In 1969, Lewis returned to the United States as a correspondent for Jeune Afrique. The following year, she became the second editor-in-chief of Essence magazine. In 1971, Lewis left Essence, and founded the international news publication Encore, where she and Nikki Giovanni interviewed Biafran leader Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. Following the magazine’s closure in 1979, Lewis joined the faculty of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Lewis worked from the mid-1980s as a political media consultant and press agent for clients such as Ross Perot, Abraham Hirschfeld and Adam Clayton Powell IV. In the 1990s, Lewis became the first female editor-in-chief of the NAACP’s The Crisis magazine. She also then began teaching as an adjunct professor of journalism at the Boston University College of Communication, where in 2005, she created the Ida E. Lewis Scholarship Fund to support minority students in journalism.

During her career, Lewis published several articles, including “Black Mask of Angry Africa” in Life magazine; “The End of Integrationism: Neither Assimilation, nor Secession, Black Americans Engage in a New Way” in Jeune Afrique; and “Who Is an African American” in The New Crisis.

Lewis was the recipient of the Award for Excellence in Journalism from the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. She also received the Woman of Distinction Award from the Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York.

In 2004, Lewis was appointed to serve on the Dean’s Executive Advisory Board of the Boston University College of Communication. She also served on the Boston University Alumni Council and the Boston University College of Communication’s National Alumni Committee.

Ida E. Lewis was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 6, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.216

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/6/2017

Last Name

Lewis

Maker Category
Middle Name

E.

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Boston University

Swarthmore High School

Phyllis Wheatley School

First Name

Ida

Birth City, State, Country

Malbern

HM ID

LEW23

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New Jersey

Birth Date

9/22/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Newark

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Potatoes

Short Description

Journalist Ida E. Lewis (1934 - ) was the second editor-in-chief of Essence magazine and the first female editor-in-chief of The Crisis. She also founded Encore magazine, and reported on international news throughout the world.

Employment

New York Amsterdam News

The Crisis

Boston University

New York Age

Le Monde

Le Figaro Litteraire

BBC

Life

Essence

Jeune Afrique

Encore

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Favorite Color

Green

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ida E. Lewis' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ida E. Lewis lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ida E. Lewis describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ida E. Lewis describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ida E. Lewis lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ida E. Lewis describes her communities in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ida E. Lewis describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ida E. Lewis describes her schooling

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ida E. Lewis recalls the start of her interest in journalism

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ida E. Lewis describes her early experiences of religion

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Ida E. Lewis recalls her extracurricular activities

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Ida E. Lewis remembers Swarthmore High School in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Ida E. Lewis talks about her early understanding of race

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Ida E. Lewis describes her experiences at Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ida E. Lewis describes her experiences at Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ida E. Lewis recalls her introduction to Alexander Pushkin

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ida E. Lewis remembers joining the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ida E. Lewis remembers joining the staff of the New York Amsterdam News

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ida E. Lewis remembers her transition to the New York Age

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ida E. Lewis recalls her time as an expatriate in Paris, France

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ida E. Lewis remembers writing her first book

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ida E. Lewis recalls traveling in Africa on assignment with Life magazine

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ida E. Lewis remembers returning the United States

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ida E. Lewis remembers the black expatriate community in Paris, France

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ida E. Lewis recalls how she became the editor-in-chief of Essence magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ida E. Lewis recalls the tension between the founders of Essence magazine, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ida E. Lewis recalls the tension between the founders of Essence magazine, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ida E. Lewis remembers her termination from Essence magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ida E. Lewis talks about creating Essence magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ida E. Lewis remembers founding Encore magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ida E. Lewis recalls teaching at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ida E. Lewis recalls her work as a political consultant and speechwriter

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Ida E. Lewis talks about Adam Clayton Powell IV

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ida E. Lewis remembers becoming the editor-in-chief of The Crisis

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ida E. Lewis talks about her retirement

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ida E. Lewis describes her art collection

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ida E. Lewis remembers her international travels

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ida E. Lewis describes her mentors

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ida E. Lewis reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ida E. Lewis reflects upon her life

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ida E. Lewis describes her advice to aspiring African American journalists

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ida E. Lewis describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Ida E. Lewis narrates her photographs

April Ryan

Journalist and political analyst April Ryan was born on September 5, 1967 in Baltimore, Maryland to Robert C. Ryan, Sr. and Vivian Ryan. She majored in broadcast journalism at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland and graduated with her B.S. degree in 1989. There, she worked at the university’s radio station, WEAA-FM, as a disc jockey.

After graduating, Ryan worked as a freelance writer for a number of television stations across the eastern United States. She returned to the Baltimore area in 1991, after landing a job as radio news announcer at V-103 (now WQSR). Ryan was soon promoted to news director, and also began freelancing for the American Urban Radio Networks (AURN). In 1997, Ryan was hired as an AURN position in the White House press corps and has reported on four United States presidential administrations. Ryan conducted one-on-one interviews with President William Jefferson Clinton, President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, First Lady Laura Bush, Vice President Al Gore, South African President Thabo Mbeki, and Secretary of State John Kerry. In 2011, Ryan was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondence Association. Ryan’s first book, The Presidency in Black and White: My Up-Close View of Three Presidents and Race in America, was published in 2015 and won the NAACP Image Award. Her second book, At Mama’s Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White, was published the following year. In 2017, Ryan became a political analyst with CNN. In 2018, Ryan published her third book, Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House.

Ryan was a member of the National Press Club and has appeared on MSNBC, NBC, and News One. In 2004, Ryan was named an American Swiss Foundation Young Leader. In 2011, Politico named Ryan as one of the top 50 people in Washington D.C. to watch. Ryan won the Journalist of the Year Award from the National Association of Black Journalists in 2017. She was also awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Claflin University.

Ryan has two children, Ryan and Grace.

April Ryan was interviewed by TheHistoryMakers on October 31, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.197

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/31/2017

Last Name

Ryan

Maker Category
Organizations
First Name

April

Birth City, State, Country

Baltimore

HM ID

RYA01

Favorite Season

Spring and Fall

State

Maryland

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard

Favorite Quote

Aspire to Inspire

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

9/1/1967

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Favorite Food

Low Country: Shrimp and Grits; Good Catfish

Short Description

Journalist and political analyst April Ryan (1967-) was a member of the White House press corps, a reporter for the American Urban Radio Networks, a CNN guest correspondent, and the author of several books on race and politics in America.

Favorite Color

Green or Red

Jonathan Capehart

Journalist Jonathan Capehart was born on July 2, 1967 in Newark, New Jersey. He graduated from Saint Benedict's Preparatory School and received his B.A. degree in political science from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota in 1989.

Capehart first worked as assistant to the president of the WNYC Foundation. He then became a researcher for NBC's The Today Show. From 1993 to 2000, he served as a member of the New York Daily News’ editorial board. In 1999, the New York Daily News editorial team received a Pulitzer Prize for the paper’s series of editorials that helped save Harlem’s Apollo Theater. Capehart then went on to work as a national affairs columnist for Bloomberg News from 2000 to 2001, and later served as a policy advisor for Michael Bloomberg in his successful 2001 campaign for Mayor of New York City. In 2002, Capehart returned to the New York Daily News, where he worked as deputy editorial page editor until 2004, when he was hired as senior vice president and senior counselor of public affairs for Hill & Knowlton. In 2007, Capehart joined the staff of the Washington Post as a journalist and editorial board member. There, he wrote for the Washington Post's PostPartisan blog and served as a contributor for MSNBC. He also served as a substitute anchor on many MSNBC programs, including AM JoyThe CycleMartin Bashir, and Way Too Early, and appeared regularly on Hardball and other programs. Capehart has also been a member of the Reporters Roundtable on ABC News' This Week with George Stephanopoulos, as well as the host of America on the Line, a news and national call-in show about the 2018 midterm elections on WNYC New York Public Radio.

Capehart served as a moderator at the Aspen Ideas Festival and for the Aspen Institute, the Center for American Progress and at the Brussels Forum of the German Marshall Fund. He has also moderated sessions at the Atlantic’s Washington Ideas Forum and for the Connecticut Forum, and he was a fellow at the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service in 2019.

Capehart has been recognized for his work in journalism. In 1999, he was on the editorial board at the New York Daily News that won a Pulitzer Prize. Capehart was also named an Esteem Honoree in 2011. In 2014, The Advocate magazine ranked Capehart nineth out of fifty of the most influential LGBT people in media. In December 2014, Mediaite named him one of the “Top Nine Rising Stars of Cable News.” Equality Forum made him a 2018 LGBT History Month Icon in October. In May 2018, the publisher of the Washington Post awarded him an “Outstanding Contribution Award” for his opinion writing and “Cape Up” podcast interviews.

Jonathan Capehart was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 16, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.145

Sex

Male

Interview Date

08/16/2017 |and| 3/22/2018

Last Name

Capehart

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Carleton College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Jonathan

Birth City, State, Country

Newark

HM ID

CAP01

Favorite Season

The Next One

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Amalfi Coast, Italy

Favorite Quote

Child Please.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

7/2/1967

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Italian

Short Description

Journalist Jonathan Capehart (1968- ) was a Washington Post editorial board member, and wrote for their PostPartisan blog. From 1993 to 2000, he was on New York Daily News’ editorial board, where he won the Pulitzer Prize for Best Editorial Writing.

Favorite Color

Navy Blue

ReShonda Tate Billingsley

Author and journalist ReShonda Tate Billingsley was born on September 7, 1969, in Kansas City, Missouri. Billingsley graduated from Madison High School in Houston, Texas in 1987, and attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned her B.A. degree in broadcast journalism in 1991.

Billingsley began her career in 1993 as an associate producer for KTRK-TV, an ABC-affiliate in Houston, Texas. After a year at KTRK, Billingsley moved to the NBC-affiliate KJAC-TV in Port Arthur, Texas, as an anchor, reporter and talk show host. In 1996, she accepted a position in Houston, Texas as a reporter for KPRC-TV, the NBC-affiliate. From 1997-2003, Billingsley was a reporter and anchor for the NBC-affiliated KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In 2003, she returned to Houston as a reporter for KRIV-TV, the Fox-affiliate, where she remained until 2007. Billingsley published her first book in 2001 My Brother’s Keeper, which was picked up by publishing company Simon & Schuster the following year. She became a National Bestselling Author of over forty fiction, non-fiction, and teen fiction books. Billingsley has also served as a reporter and editor for the Houston Defender since 1993. She served as a host and producer for KPFT’s From Cover to Cover literary talk show from 2009 to 2013, and KTSU’s The Sista Xchange from 2011 to 2014. She, and fellow Simon & Schuster author Victoria Christopher Murray, co-founded Brown Girl Books in 2014. Her books The Devil is a Lie and Let the Church Say Amen were adapted into television movies for TV One and BET.

Billingsley has also served as a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Jack & Jill of America, and the Durham Library board. Billingsley received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature in 2012 for her book, Say Amen, Again, and was nominated in 2013 for The Secret She Kept, which was adapted into a television movie for TV One. She was nominated for the award once again in 2015 for Mama’s Boy.

Billingsley and her husband, Dr. Miron Billingsley have three children; Mya, Morgan and Myles.

ReShonda Tate Billingsley was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 1, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.014

Sex

Female

Interview Date

02/1/2017

Last Name

Billingsley

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Tate

Occupation
Schools

James Madison High School

Petersen Elementary School

Retta Brown Elementary School

Audrey H. Lawson Middle School

University of Texas at Austin

First Name

ReShonda

Birth City, State, Country

Kansas City

HM ID

BIL05

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

Turks and Caicos

Favorite Quote

Stop Talking About Doing It And Do It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Birth Date

9/7/1969

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Houston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Seafood

Short Description

Author and journalist ReShonda Tate Billingsley (1969 - ) served as a reporter and news anchor in Texas and Oklahoma, and was a national bestselling author of over forty fiction, nonfiction and teen fiction books.

Employment

Simon and Schuster

Houston Defender

KRIV-TV

KFOR-TV

KPRC-TV

KJAC-TV

National Enquirer

Favorite Color

Pink, Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of ReShonda Tate Billingsley's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her mother's early years and education

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her father's storytelling

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her love of reading

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her father's supper club

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her father's carpentry skills

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her neighborhood in Smackover, Arkansas

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her parents' divorce and moving to Houston, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls her favorite middle school teacher

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley remembers her first published story

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley remembers her active imagination

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls her early experiences of religion

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her church involvements

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her early reputation as a writer

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls her early career aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley remembers her favorite teacher at James Madison High School in Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls enrolling at the University of Texas at Austin

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her activities at the University of Texas at Austin

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley remembers her favorite professor at the University of Texas at Austin

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls her early broadcasting experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley remembers graduating from the University of Texas at Austin

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls working for the National Enquirer

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley remembers working as a producer at KTRK-TV in Houston, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls her transition to anchoring for KJAC-TV in Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls worked as a reporter at KPRC-TV in Houston, Texas and KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her first book, 'My Brother's Keeper'

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls self-publishing 'My Brother's Keeper'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her book, 'Let the Church Say Amen'

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about the controversy around 'Let the Church Say Amen'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes the themes of her books

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her writing career

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her books 'Help! I've Turned into My Mother' and 'I Know I've Been Changed'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley remembers her books that were published in 2007

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her teen fiction books

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her books, 'The Devil is a Lie' and 'Holy Rollers'

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her acting career

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her book, 'The Secret She Kept'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her parenting style

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her book, 'A Family Affair'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her current projects

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about the film adaptations of her books

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her screenwriting aspirations

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her awards and accolades

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley reflects upon her writing career

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her writing process

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her favorite writers and books

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about the growth of her writing career

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her family

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her publishing company, Brown Girls Books

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

2$7

DATitle
ReShonda Tate Billingsley remembers her active imagination
ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her book, 'Let the Church Say Amen'
Transcript
Now didn't your mother [Nancy Kilgore Blacknell] tell you at one time that making up a story is a lie unless you write it down and then it's a fiction (laughter)?$$Yes, then it's a story. If it comes out of our mouth (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Then it's a story, right, right.$$--it's a lie, if you write it down.$$If you write it down then it's a story?$$Yes, and so you know and that was one of the things because I would--I remember when my mother, my parents were still together. I would just out of the blue start acting out a story. I had written a story about a little girl that had passed out and we were in Smackover [Arkansas], we were going from Norphlet [Arkansas] to Smackover, and my sister [Tanisha Tate] told my parents, "ReShonda [HistoryMaker ReShonda Tate Billingsley] won't, won't wake up, she won't sit up." And so, my father [Bruce Tate] pulled over to the side of the road, the truck actually broke down, and I would not lift my head. I just--my whole body was limp because that's what I had written in my story and so my parents were freaking out. They ended up flagging down somebody passing by, they took us to the hospital in Smackover to--there was a small like clinic and the doctor, who my grandmother [Tate Billingsley's maternal grandmother, Pearley Hicks Kilgore] cleaned for he examined me. My mother was crying and I'm just, I'm still not lifting up. My eyes are rolled back in the back of my head and Dr. Warren [George W. Warren] was his name and he came in, he examined me and then he said--my mother was like, "What's wrong with her?" And he told me he said, "Sit up gal," and I just kind of sat there, he said, "I said sit up, gal," and I just kind of sat up, and so my parents freaked out. They said, "Why would you do all of that?" And I said, "That's what the little girl did in my story, so I was just trying to carry it out," and my mother ended up having to leave the room before she killed me. My dad was always the, the buffer, but he, and he explained to me, "You know you can't do stuff like that." But I said, "That's how when I wrote it and she did--she never woke up." And so, little stuff that made no sense in my mind and I think I was ten at that time, no, I might have been eight at that time and it made no sense in their minds, but it made perfect sense because that's, that was the story that I wrote.$$So, you had a very active imagination.$$I did.$$And internal life that was--yeah.$$I don't know where it came from, I mean I just out of the blue I would come, and the reason my--the whole--my mother said that it was a lie 'cause I had come in, I said my sister broke her arm outside playing at--we used to gather up the leaves to burn the leaves and so I came in and my mother said, "Well, where's your sister?" I said, "Oh, she's out there. She just broke her arm jumping in the leaves." So, of course my mother ran out there and my sister is just playing in the leaves, and so my mother said, "That's, you know, that's a lie coming out of your mouth." And I said, "Naw I was trying to work through a story in my head," and so it would get me in trouble a lot (laughter) and so, I, I have no idea why I used to--I would, I just don't know why I did stuff like that, but it was just that imagination always at work.$And your next book in 2004 was 'Let the Church Say Amen' [ReShonda Tate Billingsley] which is the foundation of a trilogy, basically?$$Yes.$$Let--it's about two families, right?$$It's about a, about a family and a pastor who gives his all to the church, so much so that he doesn't see how he's neglecting his family and what I wanted to do was show--even though this is a pastor, this could be any man in any job who works so hard for their job that they don't realize how their family needs them just as much, and so that's what I wanted to write about. What ended up happening was because the book had a church title, people started classifying it as Christian fiction, and I caught a lot of flak behind that because it, is not Christian fiction. I did, I had a couple of curse words in it. I have--and you know I don't write gratuitous, I don't write gratuitous sex, I don't write gratuitous cursing. Everything I write has a purpose, but when you pick up a book and you think you're about to read Christian fiction, so I caught a lot of flak, to the point that sometimes I would read the reviews and they would have me in tears, but for every bad review, I would get ten great reviews, but you know how we do, we focus on the bad. But that book is what ended up putting me on the map.$$What were the responses good and bad to your work, I mean what did people like about it?$$A lot of people liked the truth, I mean because what happens is many of us will go to the club Saturday night and then we get up and to the club--go to church on Sunday morning, and so those are the type of characters that I would write about, so people could relate. So, one of the, the biggest things that I got from people and one of the most positive things were, "Your characters are so relatable. This story is relatable." There were people that would say, "I'm struggling, my family is struggling just like the people in this book," so in terms of the positive side, I got that a lot. The negative was the people that said, "I picked this up because I thought it was a Christian fiction book, and you had this character say a bad word, so I'm mortified." There was--I got a couple of, "You're gonna rot in hell" emails, and those are the ones that sent me to, to tears because they would said, "Well, your character is homosexual and he didn't pray hard enough," you know. And you'd wanna reply, "Write your own book," (laughter), but you know you take, try to take the high road, but I would get a lot--I caught the biggest amount of flak because my character didn't pray the gay away, and I think at that time when that was released you saw that was big, a big, the whole DL thing was a big, down low thing was a big thing going around.$$Right, I remember that.$$And people kept saying, "He could just pray this away," and I don't have--I didn't have that in my book. I had this family really struggling with one of their son's dealing with that, and I, let the family deal with it and not say okay, now he's cured at the end of the book. So, I caught that. One lady said she, the book was garbage and she was gonna use it to hold up, her coffee table that had a bad leg. So, I would get that kind of thing all the time. There was one station in Virginia that was going--had me come in for a book signing and they ended up canceling it because they said they read the book after inviting me, and they called the book soft porn, and I was mortified because I don't have any, I don't have anything like that in there, but they said they ended up canceling it and the bookstore was a Christian bookstore started selling the book behind the counter like it was a Hustler magazine, and so the way I found out was a woman contacted me and said, "I don't know who you are, but bought your book because they didn't wanna sell it to the woman in front of me." And so, that kind of, the controversy ended up making more people go and read the book, and then when they read it, they were like okay, this isn't bad, but that's what me on the map.$$Was the controversy had, did it have more to do with having gay characters or, infidelity, or what was the major issue (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) The, the primary one was the gay character, the gay son and then the only, what they considered soft porn there was a line that said, "She lowered her head in his lap," and I moved on, I didn't say anything else, but they considered that soft porn, which was just crazy to me, but that, you know that was their prerogative, but the, the biggest thing was not, not having him pray that gay away, and people kept saying in the black church, "He's a father, but he's a minister, so how is he gonna just accept that his son is gay," and so you know I, I caught that a lot. It just, it was really shocking to me, but that's what created a lot of the controversy.

Jill Nelson

Journalist and author Jill Nelson was born on June 14, 1952 in Harlem, New York to dentist Stanley Earl Nelson and librarian A'Lelia Nelson. Nelson attended Solebury School, a boarding high school in New Hope, Pennsylvania; and went on to earn her B.A. degree in English and African American studies from the City College of New York in 1977, and M.S. degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in 1980.

Nelson worked as a freelance journalist for various New York periodicals until 1986, when she accepted a staff position at the Washington Post and headed the new Sunday magazine. She left the Post in 1990 and pursued a career as a freelance writer once again. She wrote the screenplay for PBS-TV’s Mandela in 1985, and Two Dollars and a Dream in 1989. In addition, she authored the screenplay for the U.S. Department of Education’s Michael’s Journal in 1991. From 1998 to 2003, Nelson worked as a professor of journalism at the City College of New York.

She contributed to numerous publications throughout her career, including The New York Times, Essence, The Washington Post, The Nation, Ms., the Chicago Tribune, the Village Voice, USA Today, USA Weekend, and msnbc.com. Nelson also served as a lecture on many occasions and was a monthly contributor to the Op Ed page of USA Today. She also hosted numerous writing workshops. In 1993, Nelson published her best-selling memoir, Volunteer Slavery: My Authentic Negro Experience, which won an American Book Award. She also authored Straight, No Chaser: How I Became A Grown-Up Black Woman, which was published in 1997, Finding Martha’s Vineyard: African Americans at Home on an Island, published in 2005, and the novels Sexual Healing and Let’s Get It On, which were published in 2003 and 2009, respectively. Nelson also edited Police Brutality: An Anthology, which was published in 2000. She was named the Washington, D.C. Journalist of the Year at The Washington Post in honor of her contributions to journalism.

Nelson and her husband, Flores Alexander Forbes, have a daughter and two grandsons.

Jill Nelson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 11, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.085

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/11/2016

Last Name

Nelson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

City College of New York

Solebury School

New Lincoln School

First Name

Jill

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

NEL03

Favorite Season

Season

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Matha's Vineyard

Favorite Quote

I'm Done.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

6/14/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fish

Short Description

Author and journalist Jill Nelson (1952 - ) wrote for The Washington Post Magazine, Village Voice and Essence. She also authored several books, including the National Bestseller Volunteer Slavery: My Authentic Negro Experience; and the novels Sexual Healing and Let’s Get It On.

Employment

The City College of New York

NiaOnline.com

MSNBC.com

The Washington Post

USA Weekend

ESSENCE Magazine

The Village Voice

Favorite Color

Orange

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Jill Nelson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jill Nelson talks about cases of police brutality

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jill Nelson lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jill Nelson describes her maternal grandparents, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jill Nelson talks about racial identity

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jill Nelson describes her maternal grandparents, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jill Nelson talks about her maternal grandparents' community in Indianapolis, Indiana

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jill Nelson describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Jill Nelson talks about her parents' education

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jill Nelson talks about her paternal uncle, Howard Nelson, Jr.

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jill Nelson describes her parents' decision to move to New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jill Nelson lists the places where her family lived in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jill Nelson talks about her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jill Nelson describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jill Nelson describes the sights and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jill Nelson remembers her childhood in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Jill Nelson recalls the political climate in New York City during the 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Jill Nelson remembers her early experiences of watching television

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Jill Nelson talks about her father's career

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Jill Nelson remembers her parents' divorce

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Jill Nelson describes her mother's career as a librarian

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jill Nelson describes her teenage years in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jill Nelson remembers her relationship with her high school teacher

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jill Nelson talks about raising her daughter

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jill Nelson remembers her early interest in writing

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Jill Nelson describes her master's thesis, 'The Dope Kids of 115th Street'

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Jill Nelson remembers her freelance career at Essence magazine, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Jill Nelson remembers her freelance career at Essence magazine, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Jill Nelson talks about supporting her daughter

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jill Nelson recalls the journalistic challenges she faced at Essence magazine

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jill Nelson remembers being hired at The Washington Post Magazine

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jill Nelson recalls her experiences as a staff writer at The Washington Post Magazine

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jill Nelson talks about her daughter's high school education in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jill Nelson remembers the stories that she covered for The Washington Post Magazine

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Jill Nelson talks about her work in investigative journalism

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Jill Nelson recalls her departure from The Washington Post Magazine

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Jill Nelson describes the responses to her book, 'Volunteer Slavery: My Authentic Negro Experience'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Jill Nelson describes her teaching career at the City College of New York

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Jill Nelson talks about her career as an author

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Jill Nelson describes her recent novels

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Jill Nelson talks about her activism

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Jill Nelson talks about President Donald John Trump's campaign

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Jill Nelson reflects upon the Black Lives Matter movement

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Jill Nelson shares her advice to aspiring journalists

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Jill Nelson reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Jill Nelson reflects upon her life

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Jill Nelson narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Jill Nelson narrates her photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

9$5

DATitle
Jill Nelson remembers her early experiences of watching television
Jill Nelson describes her master's thesis, 'The Dope Kids of 115th Street'
Transcript
And you know, then Nixon [President Richard Milhous Nixon] came. Let me say too about growing up in that time, is what I remember. I feel this way to this day that when--I can remember coming home in '63 [1963] in November, November 22nd and the TV being on. And we had been dismissed from school [New Lincoln School, New York, New York] because Kennedy [President John Fitzgerald Kennedy] had been shot. But the TV being--my mother [A'Lelia Ransom Nelson] never had the TV on during the day. She was always out or busy or doing something. She--we weren't T- you know, TV was kind of like not as ubiquitous or as acceptable as it is now to so many people. But I can remember the TV being on. It was the news reporting about Kennedy's assassination. And then I can remember that happening again in '65 [1965] with Malcolm X: the TV being on. And then I can remember it happening again with Martin Luther King [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.]. So in a way that's a soundtrack of (pause) part of my growing up and a sign that something's wrong, you know. And I think I have a really ambivalent relationship with television in general, and I think a lot of it is because of that. Because when the TV was on during the day, there was no good to come of it. And at--in those days, there were--you hardly saw--that when saw--you hardly saw any black people on TV; and when you did it was a family affair. You know, it was like, "Come on, come on, you know, So and So is on 'The Dinah Shore Show,' you know. "Nat King Cole is on 'Perry Como' ['The Perry Como Show']," you know, and who cared about, you know, you didn't matter if you knew, you were just so happy to see black people, you know, looking pretty and being the star of the show. And that was it, you know, we didn't watch T- it wasn't like now. TV was not ubiquitous.$$And when the TV was on with each of these assassinations, were the kids brought to look or was it just on and--and?$$Oh we were brought to look. I mean we went in and my mother sat there and talked to us about what happened, and then my father [Stanley Nelson, Sr.] came home from the office and he talked about what happened. Then we had dinner or they talked about it and we were always really--it wasn't hidden from us. But I--in retrospect, I mean I think they probably were challenged as we all are with how do we explain the world to our children and not break their spirits. And I think my parents being civically active was one way that they did that for us, you know. My mother raised funds, she was on the board of the Studio Museum [Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, New York] (makes sounds). You know, she was always doing something besides taking care of yourself and your own, because your own is this larger group. And my guess would be that that's one of the things that brought them together, you know.$And so, when you graduated from City College [City College of New York, New York, New York], what did you do next?$$I started freelancing. I had occasional part time jobs. I worked on a--as an interviewer for a project that was trying to figure out--get statistics on sterilization abuse; you know, which was a kind of door to door job. I worked for the Black Theatre Alliance [Black Theatre Alliance of New York] for their newspaper for a while, you know, maybe a four month stint there. Picked up whatever I really could. Freelance, you know, someone would start a little magazine, I'd so something, made really no serious money. But I wrote--I had column and wrote for the newspaper when I was at City. So I had done that. And then I decided to go to the journalism school.$$At Columbia?$$Um-hm.$$And so, you went there when, in '78 [1978]?$$Seventy-nine [1979].$$Seventy-nine [1979].$$I graduated in '80 [1980].$$Okay, it's a one year program.$$Yeah.$$And so what did you--going to Columbia School of Journalism [Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, New York, New York], what did you hope that you were gonna get out of being in that program?$$(Pause) You know, a leg up, some connections. It seemed like the thing was so closed, and someone had told me, I don't remember who it was, but they said you--it opens doors. Because when they have to interview people, they're gonna wanna interview people who went to the same school they did, these you know, people who are running things and hiring people. And if they have to interview black people or people of color, and women, it gives you--it puts you in the door. It might get you in the door, so that--$$Right.$$--it was that. And I would say I got that out of it.$$Yeah, you know, it--it's interesting when people have had a freelance career already going into that particular school too exactly what you described is--it's usually strategic?$$Yeah, it was definitely strategic, it was definitely strategic. You know, I kind of--I knew what I wanted to do when I went there, I knew what I wanted to do my thesis on, you know.$$Which was?$$It was called 'The Dope Kids of 115th Street'; and it was about these kids on 115th Street between 7th [Avenue] and 8th [Avenue]--now Adam C.- Clayton Powell [Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard] and Frederick Douglass [Frederick Douglass Boulevard]--who sold like a million dollars' worth of heroin a week on--off this block, you know.$$And they let you track them?$$You know they did. They--the pe- I met a woman who lived in the building where they--where they hung out outside the building, and she was really nice to me. And I think after a while--I just would go every day, you know and at first like, "Oh you from Eyewitness News?" You know, "Yeah we're gonna be on TV." And then I think they--I just became like a bump on the log. You know, they sor- it didn't ma- you know, I--I became invisible or maybe I became visible in a different type of way. So I knew I wanted to do that. Again, to tell a story that I didn't feel was being told. You know, 'cause they were smart, I mean they were smart. They had a great business going and they had the lookouts, they had all these people organized by age to avoid the Rock- because of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. They were using people under eighteen [years old] to do certain types of work. I mean they were slick. They had lookouts, you know, you really--makes you, you know it's the old story that we know where it makes you think, gee what would these people be doing if they went to MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts] or City College [City College of New York, New York, New York].$$Did you get that published?$$Yeah, it was in the Village Voice. And in terms of contacts, Wayne Barrett and Jack Newfield came to speak to my class. And afterward I went up to them and pushed my way through my other--through my classmates and said, you know, "I really wanna write for the Voice and I love both of your work," which was true, and they said. "What are you doing your thesis on," and I told them. They said, "Oh let us know when you're finished, we'd love to see it." So that really--boom; and I think I gra- I graduated in May and I think that was published in July on the cover. So that was a wonderful--$$Entree.$$Yes, abso- absolutely.