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Richard Prince

Journalist Richard Prince was born on July 26, 1947 in New York, New York, to Jonathan and Audrey Prince. Prince was raised in Roosevelt, Long Island, where he graduated from high school in 1964. Then, while a student at New York University, where he graduated in 1969 with his B.S. degree in journalism, he worked as a newspaper reporter for Newark, New Jersey’s Star-Ledger.

Upon graduation, Prince was hired as a reporter for the Washington Post. In 1972, he and six other African American reporters filed a complaint against the Washington Post with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Their case for equal opportunity in the workplace triggered other similar events at news agencies across the country. In 1979, Prince accepted a new position as assistant metro editor of the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York. Two years later, he was promoted to assistant news editor. Then, in 1985, Prince was promoted again to editorial writer and columnist. From 1988 to 1993, his columns at the Democrat and Chronicle were syndicated by the Gannett News Service for publication in other newspapers across the country, giving Prince nationwide attention. Finally, in 1993, he was promoted once more to editor of the “Speaking Out” page.

In 1992, Prince became a founding member of the William Monroe Trotter Group, an association of African American newspaper columnists. Then, in 1994, he was hired as the publications editor of the organization Communities In Schools. Prince would stay in that position until 1998, when he became the interim director of communications at the National Association of Black Journalists. After shortly serving in that role, Prince returned to the Washington Post in 1999 as a part-time copy editor on the foreign desk, while working in investigative journalism for two years as editor of The Public i, an online news report of the Center for Public Integrity. In 2002, he became founding editor of the news service Black College Wire and also began writing his own column entitled Richard Prince’s Journal-isms through the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

In 2010, Kent State University awarded Prince the Robert G. McGruder Award for his accomplishments in encouraging journalism diversity. In 2013, he was awarded the Ida B. Wells Award, presented by the Medill School at Northwestern University and the National Association of Black Journalists. Prince has also chaired the Diversity Committee of the Association of Opinion Journalists.

Richard Prince was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 22, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.253

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/22/2013

Last Name

Prince

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

Everett

Occupation
Schools

New York University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Richard

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

PRI09

Favorite Season

Summer

State

New York

Favorite Quote

Well All Right

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/26/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Health Food

Short Description

Newspaper columnist Richard Prince (1947 - ) was a member of the 1972 “Metro Seven” group that fought for equal employment rights at the Washington Post. He is also the author of the column Richard Prince’s Journal-isms.

Employment

Maynard Institute for Journalism Education

Black College Wire

Washington Post

Center for Public Integrity

Communities in Schools

Democrat and Chronicle

Favorite Color

Blue

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Richard Prince narrates his photographs

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Slating of Richard Prince's interview

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Richard Prince lists his favorites

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Richard Prince describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Richard Prince describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Richard Prince talks about his paternal grandparents' West Indian background

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Richard Prince talks about his parents' childhoods in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Richard Prince describes his father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Richard Prince talks about his father's education and service in the U.S. Army during World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Richard Prince describes how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Richard Prince considers which parent he takes after most

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Richard Prince describes his parents' personalities

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Richard Prince talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Richard Prince talks briefly about the history of his family's name

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Richard Prince describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Richard Prince talks about the influence of the Presbyterian church in his his childhood community in Roosevelt, Long Island

Tape: 2 Story: 16 - Richard Prince describes his childhood community in Roosevelt, Long Island,

Tape: 2 Story: 17 - Richard Prince talks about segregation in Roosevelt, Long Island

Tape: 2 Story: 18 - Richard Prince talks about his short-lived experience in kindergarten

Tape: 2 Story: 19 - Richard Prince remembers his first experience with overt racism

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Richard Prince remembers an influential sixth grade teacher at Long Island Grade School

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Richard Prince recalls having an early interest in journalism

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Richard Prince talks about cultural diversity in Long Island, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Richard Prince recalls the names of newspapers his family kept at home

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Richard Prince talks about the absence of mentors in grade school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Richard Prince talks about developing an interest in journalism in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Richard Prince talks about his experiences at Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School in Long Island, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Richard Prince talks about being the first person in his family to go to college

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Richard Prince talks about popular music in 1964

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Richard Prince recalls attending the March on Washington in 1963, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Richard Prince recalls attending the March on Washington in 1963, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Richard Prince talks about graduating from Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School in Long Island, New York in 1964

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Richard Prince talks about choosing to attend New York University in New York City, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 14 - Richard Prince describes his experience at New York University in New York City, New York in 1964, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 15 - Richard Prince describes his experience at New York University in New York City, New York in 1964, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 16 - Richard Prince remembers the faculty advisors in the journalism department at New York University in New York City, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Richard Prince describes covering the 1967 riots in Newark, New Jersey for the Star-Ledger newspaper, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Richard Prince describes covering the 1967 riots in Newark, New Jersey riots for the Star-Ledger newspaper, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Richard Prince talks about joining the United States National Guard

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Richard Prince talks about the cultural transition from "Negro" to "Black"

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Richard Prince talks about finishing his degree at Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1969

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Richard Prince explains how he was hired to the Washington Post in 1968

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Richard Prince talks about his experience in the U.S. National Guard

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Richard Prince talks about the Metro Seven's discrimination complaint against the Washington Post, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Richard Prince talks about the Metro Seven's discrimination complaint against the Washington Post, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Richard Prince lists the members of the Metro Seven

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Richard Prince describes the requests made by the Metro Seven to the Washington Post

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Richard Prince describes the impact of the Metro Seven at the Washington Post

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Richard Prince talks about where the members of the Metro Seven are now

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Richard Prince talks about black professionals organizing in the 1970s

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Richard Prince talks about issues in public school education in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Richard Prince talks about journalists' responsibility to their community

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Richard Prince talks about the Janet Cooke controversy at the Washington Post

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Richard Prince describes covering the 1977 Hanafi Siege in Washington D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Richard Prince describes working at the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Richard Prince talks about the African American history in Rochester, New York, pt.1

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Richard Prince talks about the African American history in Rochester, New York, pt.2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Richard Prince describes Rochester, New York in the 1980s

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Richard Prince describes his decision to return to Washington, D.C.

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Richard Prince describes where he worked after returning to Washington, D.C.

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Richard Prince recalls his whereabouts at the change of the millennium as well as on September 11, 2001

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Richard Prince remembers an experience with HistoryMaker Mayor Marion Barry

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Richard Prince describes working on the Black College Wire, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Richard Prince describes working on the Black College Wire, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Richard Prince remembers how he got started at the Maynard Institute

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Richard Prince talks about colorism in Central and South America

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Richard Prince talks about the football boycott at Grambling State University in Grambling, Louisiana

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Richard Prince describes his writing style and journalistic philosophy

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Richard Prince talks about opportunities for young journalists

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Richard Prince shares his advice to young journalists

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Richard Prince talks about his awards

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Richard Prince considers what he would change about his past

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Richard Prince describes his future goals

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Richard Prince considers his professional legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Richard Prince talks about the consequences of being a journalist

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Richard Prince expresses gratitude toward his family

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Richard Prince describes how he would like to be remembered

Mary C. Curtis

Newspaper editor and news correspondent Mary C. Curtis was born on September 4, 1953 in Baltimore, Maryland. She was the youngest of five children born to Thomas Curtis and Evelyn Curtis. After graduating from Seton High School in Baltimore, Maryland in 1971, she enrolled at Fordham University in New York City and graduated form there in 1975 with her B.A. degree in communications. In 2006, Curtis was awarded a Nieman Fellowship from Harvard University.

From 1985 through 1994, Curtis served in a variety of editing positions at The New York Times, including as editor of “Home, Education, Life” and “The Living Arts,” a section in the National Edition that she helped to develop. She also served as the Features editor for the Arts and Entertainment section at The Sun in Baltimore. In addition, Curtis held positions as a reporter and as an editor with The Associated Press in New York, Hartford, Connecticut and with the Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. She also contributed news articles to TheRoot.com, theGrio.com, National Public Radio Creative Loafing , and served as a national correspondent for AOL’s PoliticsDaily.com. In 2011, she joined the The Washington Post as a contributor for the blog, “She the People.” She covered the 2012 Democratic National Convention for The Charlotte Observer.

Curtis is a member the National Association of Black Journalists. Curtis received the Carmage Walls Prize in 2005 for commentary in a competition sponsored by the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association. She is the recipient of several Green Eyeshade Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). The North Carolina Associated Press recognized Curtis with the Thomas Wolfe Award for her writing “My Rebel Journey,” an examination of Civil War heritage groups. She received the Clarion Award from the Association for Women in Communications in 2010 and 2012. Curtis was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Region IV National Association of Black Journalists in 2004.

Curtis and her husband, Martin F. Olsen, live in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Mary C. Curtis was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 8, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.156

Sex

Female

Interview Date

5/8/2013

Last Name

Curtis

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

C.

Schools

Harvard University

Fordham University

The Seton Keough High School

St. Pius V Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Mary

Birth City, State, Country

Baltimore

HM ID

CUR05

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Maryland

Favorite Vacation Destination

St. Tropez

Favorite Quote

To whom much is given, much is required.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

North Carolina

Interview Description
Birth Date

9/4/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Charlotte

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fish

Short Description

Newspaper editor, newspaper correspondent, and newspaper columnist Mary C. Curtis (1953 - ) former reporter for The Baltimore Sun and editor at The New York Times, was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Region IV NABJ.

Employment

Washington Post

Creative Loafing Atlanta

Fox Charlotte

AOL

Grio, The

CNN

Charlotte Observer

New York Times

Baltimore Sun

Arizona Daily Star

Associated Press (AP)

Traveler's Insurance, Co.

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Mary C. Curtis

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Mary C. Curtis lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Mary C. Curtis describes her mother's family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Mary C. Curtis talks about her maternal great-grandmother, who was born into slavery

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Mary C. Curtis recalls her mother's upbringing in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Mary C. Curtis continues to describe her mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Mary C. Curtis describes her father's family background and her father's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Mary C. Curtis describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Mary C. Curtis describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Mary C. Curtis lists her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Mary C. Curtis describes being the youngest of five children

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Mary C. Curtis recalls her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Mary C. Curtis describes her neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Mary C. Curtis describes the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Mary C. Curtis remembers being on the television show 'Romper Room'

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Mary C. Curtis describes her elementary school, St. Pius the Fifth, run by the Oblate nuns

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Mary C. Curtis recounts how books influenced her as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Mary C. Curtis describes her impressions of her family's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Mary C. Curtis shares her love of the Arts and how the Arts have shaped her life and career

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Mary C. Curtis talks about Seton High School, an integrated Catholic high school in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Mary C. Curtis discusses her experiences at Seton High School in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Mary C. Curtis remembers attending her fortieth high school class reunion

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Mary C. Curtis shares her memories attending Fordham University in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Mary C. Curtis recalls meeting her husband at Fordham University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Mary C. Curtis talks about her favorite professors and guest speakers at Fordham University

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Mary C. Curtis reflects on her family's upward mobility

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Mary C. Curtis discusses the journalists she admired in the 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Mary C. Curtis describes working with the Associated Press after graduation from Fordham University, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Mary C. Curtis describes how she was treated as a young black female reporter in the 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Mary C. Curtis describes taking a break from journalism during the years of 1977-1981

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Mary C. Curtis recalls attending the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education in 1981

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Mary C. Curtis talks about her experience in Tucson, Arizona from 1981-1983

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Mary C. Curtis describes being a black female journalist in the 1980s

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Mary C. Curtis shares some memories of living and working in Tucson, Arizona

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Mary C. Curtis describes moving back to the East Coast and working at The Baltimore Sun in 1983

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Mary C. Curtis talks about joining the National Association of Black Journalists in 1984

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Mary C. Curtis talks about diversity and the benefits of being involved with the National Association of Black Journalists

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Mary C. Curtis talks about the importance of diversity of views in news stories

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Mary C. Curtis talks about her work at the Baltimore Sun

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Mary C. Curtis describes her transition to the New York Times

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Mary C. Curtis describes moving to Charlotte, North Carolina to work for the Charlotte Observer

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Mary C. Curtis talks about her son, Zane, and the move to Charlotte, North Carolina from New York

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Mary C. Curtis describes the vibrancy of Charlotte, North Carolina

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Mary C. Curtis talks about her Neiman Foundation Fellowship at Harvard University in 2005, part 1

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Mary C. Curtis talks about her Neiman Foundation Fellowship at Harvard University in 2005, part 2

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Mary C. Curtis talks about her Neiman Foundation Fellowship at Harvard University in 2005, part 3

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Mary C. Curtis describes her return to Charlotte, North Carolina after her 2006 year at Harvard University

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Mary C. Curtis talks about her 2004 Thomas Wolfe award-winning article

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Mary C. Curtis talks about the aftermath of her Thomas-Wolfe award winning article in 2004

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Mary C. Curtis talks about her coverage of the 2007-2008 primary elections

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Mary C. Curtis recalls covering the 2008 elections and interviewing President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Mary C. Curtis talks about being laid off at the Charlotte Observer in 2008 and her journalism work since then

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Mary C. Curtis talks about how she covers conservative news stories

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Mary C. Curtis talks about her journalistic philosophy

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Mary C. Curtis talks about her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Mary C. Curtis talks about interviewing Franklin McCain of North Carolina

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Mary C. Curtis describes her different journalist affiliations

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Mary C. Curtis describes the arts events she covered

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Mary C. Curtis talks about her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Mary C. Curtis talks about her family and her son, Zane

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Mary C. Curtis talks about the future

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Mary C. Curtis talks about being on 'Jeopardy'

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Mary C. Curtis describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Mary C. Curtis narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

2$4

DATitle
Mary C. Curtis talks about diversity and the benefits of being involved with the National Association of Black Journalists
Mary C. Curtis talks about her coverage of the 2007-2008 primary elections
Transcript
Now, this is something I hear from a lot of black journalists, that they really feel, there's a particular kind of loneliness working at a white newspaper, basically, where you just don't have the--they feel, you know, it takes a lot of stamina to, you know, to stay, you know, withstand it, I guess, and you know, that's what I--that's what people keep saying, that it's a lot of pressure (unclear) (simultaneous)-$$Well, I'm not sure I'd use the word stamina as much as, you know, you are, you're doing your job, but say, if you're talking about news judgment or how a story is played or you wanna make sure that when you have people of color in the paper, that you--I'm in features. So most of the minorities you would see on the pages are in Metro or news, when they're doing something or is the face of welfare or poor people or--I mean not always. But it's usually news. And to me, I love features because it humanizes people. And you have the universal experiences. We all garden, we all cook, we all go to church. We have these experiences we share, so it's especially important that minorities are represented in stories in the food section, in the feature section, in the faith section, you know, all of these--in the entertainment section, and all of these sections. So you see people doing the same things you do. When you have a home story that is about a minority family in a home, these kinds of things. So you're always trying to make sure that happens, to make sure if you do a feature story, say, on romance, on couples, that there's diversity, and not just diversity of race, but of income level, of geography, so you're not just picking people from some part of the city, certain neighborhoods, of age. So if you have a romance story, maybe older people, and so you're mindful of that. But when you're making that, you're making that case every day in the newsroom, and you are doing your job and trying to make people understand that this is just not an extra to be put in a story, but it makes the story more complete and more accurate. So it's good journalism, and sometimes that's pressure because people are under deadline pressure. People, of course, relate more to people like themselves, so when you are alone in the newspaper or in any media organization, you're it or there's a few of you. So it is, I would say it's not stamina, but it's every day, it's--it takes energy. It takes energy, and I do think, you know, people kid about the parties at NABJ [National Association of Black Journalists], but part of it is the relaxation of being there and of knowing, when you say--it's, you're talking in a shorthand because when you say, I was trying to convince my editor, and they say, oh, I know, you know (laughter). So it's a meeting, you don't have to explain yourself. You don't have to be anyone but yourself. And I think there's a certain comfort level in that. It's the people, the way, reason people belong to any club. And I think a misnomer when people say, well, we, there's no national organization of white journalists. Well, first of all there're people of every color that belong to NABJ [National Association of Black Journalists]. White people do belong to it, Hispanic people, it's, if you believe in the mission of diversity. So it's not an exclusive organization. It's an inclusive organization, just like NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] or any of those organizations. It is inclusive. It's about the message, and it's just nice knowing you're with people that, people who, that particular message is important to those people. And so, yeah, I think it is relaxing, and when, that very last night before you come back, there usually is a dance. And there's music and people are dancing, and it is a release of sorts. And I think there's nothing wrong with that. You know, you've worked hard, you're--you know, even at NABJ [National Association of Black Journalists], you're wearing your business clothes. You never know who you're gonna run into, that give you a future job. You're going to the job fairs. So it's about business and it's about skills development, but it's also about being with folks, you know, who--I like to say it is a shorthand. And it's about catching up with people that you haven't seen for a while because the nature of the business is that you travel to different places. You get a job here or there. So it's saying, oh, my goodness, you know. I haven't seen you. You're working in Detroit [Michigan] now, that kind of thing. So I, it's work and it's therapy (laughter). We all need that, so I agree, I agree. It's, you know, I've never--I don't think that newspapers or media organizations are any more discriminatory or whatever as any part of society. But I do think sometimes we have to emphasize that they are, indeed, a part of society. So it's not as though the people who work there--I do think sometimes journalists think, we don't have those problems because we're more open minded than that. Well, the people are human beings. When you go into the door of whatever organization, you don't drop society's roles. You don't drop any prejudices at the door because you're a journalist. You hope to, and you work at it, but we all bring something to it. So that's a part of it.$And Ed Sanders was just--and later, they made him the principal of the school, a white school that--and he hired the first black teacher there, B.B. Delaine, I think, who was the son of the Reverend Delaine of the Clarendon County case in South Carolina that was part of the 'Brown v. Board of Education' [1954]. So there's so much Civil Rights history here. But it's, you're right, you know. It, sometimes it takes a lot, but if you just say, "I'm gonna do what I have to do." So he taught me something, but I was--so that was in the '[Charlotte] Observer' too, and then when the South Carolina primaries happened in 2000--started going in 2007, I went to the debate in South Carolina, the first Democratic debate. And I saw on the stage, [President] Barack Obama and [Senator] Hillary Clinton and [Senator] John Edwards and [Governor] Bill Richardson and all these folks, [Senator] Joe Biden, I thought, you know, this is gonna be something. This is gonna be something. So I really hadn't been that involved in politics, but, you know, sometimes you see a story and you gotta grab a hold of it. And you go to that debate and then you go to the Republican debate, and you have to, you need a cheat sheet because they all look the same, you know, well, you know who [Mayor Rudy] Giuliani and [Senator John] McCain and [Governor Mitt] Romney are, but, and you realize how different it's gonna be, and this is gonna be historic. So I just got a hold of that story, tried to make it mine, got the paper's first two interviews with [President] Barack Obama, the only interview with [Senator] Hillary Clinton, followed [Governor] Mike Huckabee around South Carolina, just tried to tell that story, and that--tried to tell that story, tried to tell it.$$Now, this is a campaign that North Carolina's favorite son, [Senator] John Edwards, kind of went down and the--he had issues with his marriage and all that got in the press and-$$Yeah, although, not at the beginning there. I mean in 2000--the 2008 campaign, remember that famous debate in Myrtle Beach [South Carolina] where [Senator] Hillary Clinton and [President] Barack Obama were going at each other, and their supporters were in front with dueling cards. And [Senator] John Edwards was sort of the peacemaker.$$Oh, sure, John Edwards was-$$So calm.$$--a favorite of a lot of people, you know-$$Yeah, and then there were some people who thought, "Well, this isn't gonna be the time for a woman or a minority, that the Democrat--he would be the white guy Democrat that people come back to" because, remember that was the year after [President George W.] Bush where it was such a prime year for a Democrat. So, that's why a lot of people got frustrated when what came out, came out because if he had gotten it, of course, it would have come out, and that would have totally ruined it for it. But, yeah, it was obviously, another great time to be a journalist. Even though North Carolina's primary was late, it actually counted. But I initially covered the--South Carolina is one of the first in the South. So I got to go down there and write columns off of the appearances, see [Presdient] Bill Clinton just hang out and go out around South Carolina with the Republicans and Democrats, watch a Baptist minister bless [Governor] Mike Huckabee and, you know, all of that. It was, I really liked to see the--my piece, my column started to be on the intersection of all of these things, to look at it, and to see the culture piece in the campaigns because what are debates, but political theater? So when you're in a Republican debate and they're talking about torture and all of them are, you know, Romney's, I'm pro-Guantanamo, let's expand it, and, you know, you have [Representative] Tom Tancredo talk about, you know, Jack Ry[an], you know, "Send in the guy from '24'" and [Senator] John McCain says, "You know, we shouldn't torture because it's not about who they are. It's about who we are." And no one applauds, and you realize the only guy against it on the stage is the guy who's been tortured. So that's the story. You know, so it's finding that piece of, looking at it and saying, wow, you know. To watch Oprah [Winfrey] appearing with [President Barack] Obama in South Carolina in a stadium. It was just covering the scene. And I went on to Denver, not for the '[Charlotte] Observer', actually. They didn't send me to the Democratic National Convention. But I got a chance to go and I went and covered for Neiman [Foundation], wouldn't have missed it, went on my own time. That's when the papers were cutting back. I was starting to see the writing on the wall. So, although, you know, it was a great experience.

Les Payne

Journalist and author Les Payne was born on July 12, 1941 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. As a child, Payne was always interested in writing. He graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1964 with B.A. degree in English. Serving six years in the United States Army, Payne worked as an Army journalist and wrote speeches for General William C. Westmoreland. While on assignment in Vietnam, he ran the Army’s newspaper, and when he was discharged, he had attained the rank of captain.

Payne joined Newsday in the late 1960s, serving as the associate managing editor for the paper’s national, science, and international news. In 1968, as an investigative reporter, Payne covered the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther, Jr., and in the 1970s, he covered the Black Panther Party. He won a Pulitzer Prize for The Heroin Trail in 1974, which was a Newsday series in 33 parts that traced the international flow of heroin from the poppy fields of Turkey to the veins of drug addicts in New York City. Later, it became a published book. He also covered the Symbionese Liberation Army and authored The Life and Death of the Symbionese Liberation Army. As a Newsday correspondent, Payne reported extensively from Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and the United Nations. During the 1976 Soweto uprising, he traveled throughout South Africa and wrote a series that was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in foreign reporting. Payne was also responsible for Newsday’s Queens edition, whose news staffs have won every major award in journalism, including three Pulitzer Prizes. He was also a columnist for the Tribune Media Services.

As one of the founders and former presidents of the National Association of Black Journalists, Payne worked to improve media fairness and employment practices. He was also the Inaugural Professor for the David Laventhol Chair at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Payne received several awards including the United Nations’ World Hunger Media Award, and three Unity Awards for investigative reporting. In 1990, he won cable television’s highest honor, the Ace Award, for an interview with Mayor David Dinkins on Les Payne’s New York Journal. In addition, he was a recipient of two honorary doctorate degrees from Medgar Evers College and Long Island University.

Payne passed away on March 19, 2018 at age 76.

Accession Number

A2006.071

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/10/2006

Last Name

Payne

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Twentieth Street Elementary School

Hartford Public High School

University of Connecticut

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Les

Birth City, State, Country

Tuscaloosa

HM ID

PAY06

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cape Town, South Africa

Favorite Quote

Achieve Immortality Before You Die.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Connecticut

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/12/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Hartford

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fish

Death Date

3/19/2018

Short Description

Newspaper reporter Les Payne (1941 - 2018 ) was a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, who was a founder and former president of the National Association of Black Journalists. Working for Newsday in the 1960s, he covered the Black Panther Party and the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Employment

Newsday

U.S. Army

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Les Payne's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Les Payne lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Les Payne describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Les Payne describes his maternal great grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Les Payne describes his mother's upbringing in Hale County, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Les Payne describes his mother's aspiration to be financially independent

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Les Payne talks about his father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Les Payne remembers his maternal family's migration north

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Les Payne recalls his early childhood in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Les Payne describes his church involvement as a child in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Les Payne describes tent revivals in the South

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Les Payne describes the importance of church for his upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Les Payne recalls listening to records of C.L. Franklin's sermons

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Les Payne remembers communion at Baptist services in the rural South

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Les Payne recalls the mourners' bench at Tuscaloosa's St. Paul Baptist Church

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Les Payne remembers his baptism at the age of twelve years old

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Les Payne recalls skipping the first grade at Tuscaloosa's Twentieth Street Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Les Payne recalls his experiences at Twentieth Street Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Les Payne remembers when his oldest brother nearly drowned

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Les Payne recalls seeing the Ku Klux Klan drive through Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Les Payne describes his mother's decision to move to Hartford, Connecticut

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Les Payne remembers Hartford Public High School in Hartford, Connecticut

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Les Payne remembers when his grandmother addressed a white teenager as "Sir"

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Les Payne recalls his refusal to address a white salesman as "Sir"

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Les Payne describes the impact of segregation on his self-worth

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Les Payne recalls differences between Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Hartford, Connecticut

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Les Payne recalls scoring above his white peers at Hartford Public High School

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Les Payne describes how he improved his sense of self-worth

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Les Payne talks about how he addressed his shyness

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Les Payne describes his early interest in Russian literature

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Les Payne shares his opinion of Mark Twain

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Les Payne recalls how his interest in writing developed

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Les Payne recalls being barred from engineering courses at Hartford Public High School

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Les Payne recalls studying engineering at the University of Connecticut

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Les Payne recalls his decision to leave the University of Connecticut's engineering program

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Les Payne describes his early interest in journalism

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Les Payne reflects upon his journalism prospects as a young college graduate

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Les Payne remembers joining in the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant in 1963

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Les Payne recalls how his civil rights activity impacted his U.S. Army career

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Les Payne recalls how black psychologists informed his thinking

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Les Payne describes his role as a U.S. Army journalist

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Les Payne shares his opinion of the Vietnam War

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Les Payne recalls being honorably discharged from the U.S. Army

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Les Payne describes the impact of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Les Payne remembers being hired at Newsday

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Les Payne describes Newsday's predominantly white readership

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Les Payne recalls writing a story about Long Island's immigrants for Newsday

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Les Payne recalls his undercover fieldwork in Long Island's migrant community

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Les Payne recalls his cover being questioned by his work crew chief

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Les Payne describes founding Uptight, a black opinion magazine

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Les Payne describes his coverage of the Black Panther Party for Newsday

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Les Payne recalls covering the international heroin trade for Newsday

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Les Payne recalls travelling to South Africa to cover the Soweto uprising

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Les Payne describes his Newsday coverage of South Africa's Soweto uprising

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Les Payne recalls the founding of the National Association of Black Journalists

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Les Payne describes the impact of the National Association of Black Journalists

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Les Payne talks about his marriage and children

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Les Payne remembers the birth of his son, Jamal Payne

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Les Payne recalls being followed by the French government

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Les Payne shares his opinion of President Ronald Wilson Reagan

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Les Payne recalls experiences that impacted his column writing

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Les Payne recalls when Ronald Reagan began his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Les Payne shares his criticism of American political leaders

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Les Payne talks about how African Americans misread white politicians

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Les Payne talks about how Malcolm X overcame his sense of inferiority

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Les Payne explains the concept of counter-rejection

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Les Payne reflects upon Malcolm X's teachings

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Les Payne describes Newsday's coverage of the Iraq War

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Les Payne recalls advocating for Newsday journalists to stay in Iraq

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Les Payne describes the arrest of two Newsday journalists by the Mukhabarat in Iraq

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Les Payne recalls working to free two Newsday journalists from Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Les Payne talks about how he acquired his leadership skills

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Les Payne talks about the dearth of African American White House correspondents

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Les Payne describes his future plans

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Les Payne talks about why he decided to share his story

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Les Payne narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

4$5

DATitle
Les Payne describes his role as a U.S. Army journalist
Les Payne recalls covering the international heroin trade for Newsday
Transcript
Here I am at, at Fort Bliss, Texas, and this guy is asking me, you know, if, if I believe in nonviolence and I told him, "No." I told, I told him that I think people, black people, should defend themselves. I told him, "I don't, I don't believe in nonviolence; I don't believe in sitting in and laying in. I, I'm, you know, you know--." I told him that. But despite that, I got, I got my security clearance and, and went to my C20 class, and then I got extended because there was a build-up, you know, by this time it was 1965, and there was a build-up in Vietnam, and so all regular [U.S.] Army officers--I was a regular Army officer; that's the commission that I took. All regular Army officers were extended and they could be without--you, you had no option. What would happen is that coming up to three years, you would put in a request to get out, and then they could grant it or not, and they just blanketly did not grant it, so I was extended. No, they can only extend you for eighteen months at a time, so they extended me and retrained me, in their words, as an Army journalist, and sent me to Vietnam, and so I went to Vietnam in--I went to Vietnam in 1967, and I was there most of 19--from January '67 [1967] to January '68 [1968].$$Can you remember some of the s-, the issues you covered in Vietnam--the things you wrote about for the Army?$$(Laughter) I mean, I mean I said I was an Army journalist but, you know--I mean journalism is to the Army what Army food is to food (laughter). I mean I was, I was a propagandas, man; I mean I was--I didn't really cov-, okay, here's what I did--I mean I wrote the Army newspaper, you know; I was the editor, publisher, I was the editor of the Army newspaper. Okay, when I, when I went to Vietnam, I was a--the [U.S.] military people will understand--a 5505; that was my military occupational specialty, my MOS. The 5505, we'll just say a journalist; if you look that up that's what it'll say--Army journalist, that's what I was. But, I ran the newspaper, I wrote speeches for Westmoreland [General William C. Westmoreland], I wrote messages, we answered some of his letters and stuff, and I also worked in an office that dealt with the civilian press. The civilian--five hundred-odd civilians would come over to cover the war [Vietnam War] from all over--mainly the U.S., but Europe as well, and they would be handled by MACV, Military Advisory Command, Vietnam [Military Assistance Command, Vietnam], MACV. So, I worked for Westmoreland on his staff as an information officer; we worked with the civilian press. If they wanna get to the battle zone, we would tell 'em how to get there and we would give them briefings, and that sort of thing, so I did that. But those were the kinds of jobs that I did, you know as, as, as an Army journalist. I was not a combatant, I was not armed. I was only armed twice, and I think it was when I was a payroll officer, so I was not a combatant and I did not kill anybody, thank God, and I don't think I would have.$The other thing that happened is that the heroin epidemic was gripping America, and particularly New York [New York]. New York was the heroin capital; New York was the--New York City, mainly Harlem [New York, New York] and Bedford-Stuyvesant [Brooklyn, New York], was the heroin consumption capital of the world. I think in the year--roughly around '70 [1970], '71 [1971], it was like 1100 drug overdoses in New York City alone--1100 heroin overdoses--people dying from drugs. Now, the murder rate in New York now is like six hundred a year--homicide rate is like six hundred a year in '06 [2006]; well, back then 1100 drug overdoses. I mean it was in--it was incredible epidemic, and not only was people dying of heroin overdoses, but to get the heroin, most of these people were not employed. There was a lot of crime: muggings, people stealing tape decks, breaking into houses; crime rates was astronomical, and I think over two thousand people were killed a year in homicides, a lot of it drug-connected. So, Newsday, at that point, you know--this is in '71 [1971], began to say, okay, because what had happened is that drugs began to creep into the white communities, so Newsday, which is a white suburban community--it was not in New York City at that point, it's mainly on Long Island [New York]--began to be interested in--to find out how they can begin to write about this heroin epidemic that was beginning--only beginning to get into the white suburbia, and so they put together a team of three reporters. The team leader was a guy name Bob Greene [Robert W. Greene], who was a legendary investigative reporter; he had won a Pulitzer Prize for land scandals that he had written about in--on Long Island--in Babylon [New York], by the way--Babylon town. So, they told him he could have the pick of the litter; he could put together a team of two reporters to go abroad and look at the--they wanna look at the international flow of heroin; not just to cover it as a local New York story, but to cover it--how does heroin get here? Well, it gets here--at that point, 80 percent of the heroin was coming from, from Turkey and through the French connection--Marseille [France] mainly, the Marseille area and into, essentially, the veins of the junkies. And so Newsday was gonna put together this team; Greene had the pick of the litter; he chose me as one of the two reporters--I and a fellow name Newt Royce, and I was picked for a number of reasons; my [U.S.] military background didn't hurt. Here I was, a former captain, a ranger--clearly someone who could take care of himself and could travel abroad, and I was also developing a reputation as somebody with the migrant story [about Long Island, New York's migrant community] and the Panther [Black Panther Party]--as somebody, you know, who had learned the--was learning the craft. So I was picked, you know, for that particular story, and the three of us we went to investigate essentially the international flow of heroin, you know, and we wanted to trace it from the poppy fields in Turkey, where it is converted into morphine base, to the laboratories in Marseille area France, where this morphine base is converted chemically into heroin, and then that heroin was shipped, you know, dockside, into United States, so that, that was a story, and it was a great adventure. I mean here I am a young reporter on this international story, and we ended up spending, you know, it was eight months abroad. We, we bought a villa--or rented a villa--leased a villa in, in Istanbul [Turkey], and lived there for three months, and while we were doing that, we were investigating--unbeknownst to the Turkish government, which was--martial law was in Turkey at that point. We were int-, we were investigating how Turkey--how the, the farmers in Afyon [Afyonkarahisar Province, Turkey], which is where--the part of Turkey where it was grown--how do they grow the opium poppy, and how do they get--how does it, it get from being opium to morphine base, and how does it get to France? And so we covered that. And who makes the money? How does it travel? Those are things that, that the three of us we finding, and we did document that. Then, after three months there, then we moved to France; we, we bought a villa--rented a villa in, in a little place called Le Lavandou [France], which is on the Mediterranean [Mediterranean Sea], which is between Marseille and Nice [France] and, and from that base where we were living, I mean we looked at the French connection, you know, and reported on it--again, another three and a half months. And then after that, then we came back to the states and then wrote the piece, which became a book called 'The Heroin Trail' [Newsday Editors]. We got the Pulitzer [Pulitzer Prize] in 1974, and I think it still stands up pretty much as, as an account of how it worked back in those days--how the international drugs case happened.