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Elinor Tatum

Newspaper publisher Elinor Ruth Tatum was born on January 29, 1971 in New York City, New York to Wilbert and Susan Tatum. Her father was a former publisher and chief executive officer of the New York Amsterdam News. Tatum was raised in New York City and was educated in the City’s primary and secondary schools. She graduated from St. Lawrence University with her B.A. degree in government studies in 1993. Tatum went on to attend Stockholm University in Stockholm, Sweden, where she studied international relations until 1994.

Upon returning from Sweden, Tatum joined her father at the New York Amsterdam News, where she accepted a position as assistant to the publisher. In 1996, she was promoted to associate publisher and chief operating officer. Tatum received her M.A. degree in journalism from New York University in 1997, and was promoted to publisher and editor-in-chief of the New York Amsterdam News, becoming one of the youngest publishers in the history of African American press. In 2006, Tatum began producing and co-hosting a weekly segment of Al Sharpton’s weekly radio show “Keep’in It Real.” She has also appeared on WNBC evening news, ARISE, The O'Reilly Factor, 20/20, New York 1, CUNY TV, the Today Show, and NBC Nightly News. After her father passed away in 2009, Tatum assumed full control of the New York Amsterdam News.

Tatum has held many civic positions and served on numerous community boards, including St. Lawrence University, the New York Urban League, the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, the Chinatown YMCA, Manhattan Community Board 3, and the Creative Visions Foundation. She was also the former secretary of the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

Tatum has received many awards including recognition in Who’s Who of American Women; a Doctor Of Humane Letters Honorus Causae from Metropolitan College (New York City); Manhattan Borough Presidents’ Women’s History Month Award; the Public Advocate of New York City Award of Distinction; the Women Who Make A Difference Award; Outstanding Business Empowerment from the New York Chapter of Black Business and Professional Women Award; Standing On their Shoulders Award from the National Action Network, the Good Scout Award, and the Pi Beta Phi’s Members of Distinction Award.

Elinor Tatum was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 11, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.282

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/11/2013

Last Name

Tatum

Maker Category
Middle Name

Ruth

Schools

St. Lawrence University

Stockholm University

New York University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Elinor

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

TAT02

Favorite Season

Seasonal Changes

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

I Promise to Try.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

1/29/1971

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Vegetables

Short Description

Newspaper publishing chief executive Elinor Tatum (1971 - ) was named publisher and editor-in-chief of the New York Amsterdam News at age twenty six, making her one of the youngest publishers in the history of African American press.

Employment

New York Amsterdam News

Delete

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Elinor Tatum's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Elinor Tatum lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Elinor Tatum describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Elinor Tatum talks about her father's start in New York politics

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Elinor Tatum describes her father's childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Elinor Tatum talks about her father's experiences in Japan and Sweden

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Elinor Tatum describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Elinor Tatum talks about her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Elinor Tatum describes the block where she grew up

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Elinor Tatum describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Elinor Tatum talks about her parents' work and community activism

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Elinor Tatum remembers learning from her father that her voice mattered

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Elinor Tatum talks about her father's activism and political career

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Elinor Tatum recalls the eclectic mix of people she met as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Elinor Tatum reflects on her childhood personality

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Elinor Tatum reflects on the importance of holidays in her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Elinor Tatum describes the privileged culture of the Dwight School

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Elinor Tatum recalls two teachers' reactions to her dyslexia at the Dwight School

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Elinor Tatum describes overcoming her dyslexia

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Elinor Tatum describes her interests in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Elinor Tatum talks about the start of her father's career with the 'Amsterdam News'

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Elinor Tatum describes her father's changing positions on Louis Farrakhan's anti-Semitic comments

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Elinor Tatum talks about navigating her black and Jewish identities

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Elinor Tatum remembers a letter she sent to her father

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Elinor Tatum talks about how she decided to go to St. Lawrence University

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Elinor Tatum reminisces about her summers while growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Elinor Tatum recalls being invited on a life-changing trip to Africa

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Elinor Tatum talks about diversity at St. Lawrence University

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Elinor Tatum talks about leaving for Africa

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Elinor Tatum recounts the achievements of the friends she traveled with

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Elinor Tatum talks about her trip to Africa

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Elinor Tatum talks about experiences at Lincoln University and the New School

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Elinor Tatum talks about her life in Sweden

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Elinor Tatum talks about starting her career at the 'Amsterdam News' in 1994

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Elinor Tatum talks about practicing journalism in college

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Elinor Tatum talks about the culture at the 'Amsterdam News'

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Elinor Tatum talks about the National Newspaper Publishers Association

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Elinor Tatum talks about her father becoming sole owner of the 'Amsterdam News'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Elinor Tatum remembers how she learned about her promotion to Editor-in-Chief of the 'Amsterdam News'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Elinor Tatum talks about studying journalism at New York University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Elinor Tatum talks about adopting her father's legacy at the 'Amsterdam News'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Elinor Tatum talks about the success of the 'Amsterdam News'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Elinor Tatum talks about her transition into Editor-in-Chief at the 'Amsterdam News'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Elinor Tatum reflects upon her accomplishments as Editor-in-Chief of the 'Amsterdam News'

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Elinor Tatum talks about gentrification in Harlem during her lifetime

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Elinor Tatum talks about the importance of the black press for the future

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Elinor Tatum talks about her political involvement

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Elinor Tatum talks about necessary technological changes in the black press

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Elinor Tatum talks about her mother and motherhood

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Elinor Tatum describes her hopes and concerns for the black community

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Elinor Tatum talks about the changes she wants for the black community

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Elinor Tatum talks about the significance of her father's generation

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Elinor Tatum reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Elinor Tatum reflects upon how she has changed since her childhood

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Elinor Tatum talks about the legacy of the Obama presidency

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Elinor Tatum narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

3$2

DATitle
Elinor Tatum recalls two teachers' reactions to her dyslexia at the Dwight School
Elinor Tatum remembers how she learned about her promotion to Editor-in-Chief of the 'Amsterdam News'
Transcript
So what--tell me--I know it was privileged, but how do you think it affected you going there [the Dwight School in New York City, New York]? And, and ha--they were better at services there?$$They were better at services 'cause I had the money and they understood learning disabilities.$$Because I've heard that people say sometimes they have to rely on public schools because their--$$Well, see at that point in time--now the public schools have a lot more resources, and they have IEPs [Individualized Education Programs] and they understand learning disabilities in a way that they did not. Because in the 1970s the word dyslexia was like a dirty word.$$That's right.$$And--$$It was something to be ashamed of. That's--$$Exactly, exactly, and so there was no help. People just ignored it. In the public schools they put you in the slower track, I mean, to the point where I had a teacher in the 6th grade at Hunter [Hunter College Elementary] who basically told me that I was never gonna amount to anything.$$I had read that. I had read tha--$$And, I mean, she was this absolutely horrible, old woman who I couldn't stand. Her name was Mrs. Kerry. She was downright evil, downright evil. And so one of my favorite stories about her is I ran into her in the--in the summer of 1989, when I had just graduated from high school. And she saw me, and I said "hello, Mrs. Kerry." She's like, "hi, how are you? Have you graduated from high school?" And I said, "well, yes." She's like, "well, are you going to trade school?" And I said "oh, no. Actually, I'm a scholar at St. Lawrence University; thank you very much." And I walked away from her. Four years--no, five years later I ran into her again. I'd completed four years at St. Lawrence University, a year of graduate work at Stockholm University, and I was then editor at the 'Amsterdam News,' and--I may not have actually been an editor yet, but she didn't need to know that. So I run into Mrs. Kerry again. She lived not too far from here. She said, "so what are you up to? Did you graduate from college? Do you have a job?" I said "well, yes; I'm an editor at the 'Amsterdam News,' thank you, and what are you doing?" She said "I've retired," and I looked at her and I said "thank God," and I walked away and I never saw her again.$$See those people--you never--I mean, it's that story of people, you know.$$But I've got--but I've got a good story from that same place. There was a woman named Mrs. Kagan, and that name might be familiar to you, that last name Kagan.$$Yeah, oh, I know.$$Well, there was a woman named Gloria Kagan, who was my teacher at the same time that Mrs. Kerry was my teacher, and she worked really, really hard with me and made sure that I was successful. She was this great woman. In 1994 or 1995, a piece ran in the "New York Times" about me. It was on the public lives page. And I got a note from her, and the note just said, "It's so great to see my kids grow up so well." And Gloria Kagan happened to be the mother of Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.$$That's lovely. But she, she's brilliant herself. That's lovely.$$Yeah.$So in 1996, this--you know, the--everything is sort of set in motion now. Is there a discussion with you and your father [Wilbert Tatum]? I mean, you know, he ha--remember his words were, you know, it's now or--$$Well, you know, there, there really wasn't a discussion. I was going to graduate school at that point [New York University in New York City, New York], and I was learning the business from the ground up. I was I think Chief Operating Officer at that point at the paper, and I was--I was learning everything, and I was learning it at my father's side, which was one of the greatest gifts I could possibly have gotten. And then I graduated from NYU. And the National Association of Black Journalists--actually no, it was the local--it was the NYABJ [New York Association of Black Journalists] was having their annual dinner. And we had two or three tables at this dinner this year, and I had no idea why. We had never participated in NYABJ before. I knew very little about it. And I'm sitting at the, the table at the dinner. And Terrie Williams, the PR guru, says, "Ellie, have you read the, the 'Amsterdam News' ad in the journal?" And I said no. She's like, "Well, look at it." So I open up the journal ad, and I said, oh, it's looks nice and close it up again. She's like, "No, read it." I open it up again and I read it, and I read the whole thing. And it's signed by me as publisher and editor-in-chief of the 'Amsterdam News.' That was the way my father announced to me that I was now heading the organization. So that's--that was my father's way of telling me, "okay, kid, your turn now."$$Was he there that evening?$$Yep, he was there that evening, and he gave a speech, and it was really--it was an amazing evening. It really was an amazing evening. I was completely dumbstruck. I had absolutely no idea it was gonna happen.$$So wait, he had written the, the--he had written the--he had written and it's signed by you. Did somehow Terrie knew that you didn't know?$$Yeah. Yeah, she was one of our guests at the table.$$Wow. So what did that mean then, him handing over the reins? What did that mean at that point 'cause you're just finish--you just finished. And, and--$$Right, but I'd all--already been at the paper for, you know--well, actually no, I had not been--$$No, you, you--$$--had not--had not--$$--hadn't been there--$$--for very long.$$You'd been there--you'd been there for two years.$$No, no, no, I'd been there for--it was 1998. I'd been there for four years already.$$Oh, 1998, okay.$$Yeah, yeah.$$Okay, so, so you had already finished NYU--$$Yeah, yeah.$$--at that point, okay.$$It was after--it was right after I finished NYU--$$Okay.$$--that was done.