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Ernie Suggs

Journalist Ernie Suggs was born in 1967 in Brooklyn, New York. He entered into college at North Carolina Central University in 1985, where he was editor and chief and sports editor for the college’s award winning newspaper, The Campus Echo , and a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. He graduated in 1990, with his B.A. degree in English Literature.

In 1990, Suggs was awarded an internship by the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) to work for Gannett Newspapers based in White Plains, New York. He returned to Durham, North Carolina in 1992, as a writer for The Herald-Sun . In 1996, Suggs was awarded a fellowship from the Education Writers Association, which culminated in his seventeen piece series Fighting to Survive: Historically Black Colleges and Universities Face the 21st Century . He went on to become a reporter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1997, where he covered politics, civil rights and race. In 2001, Suggs authored the Aetna African American History Calendar, which was focused on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Suggs’ series on HBCUs was the most in-depth newspaper examination of the topic ever undertaken, and was recognized for many awards: Journalist of the Year from the American Association of University Professors; First Place, Salute to Excellence Journalism Award for Investigative Reporting from the National Association of Black Journalists; Journalist of the Year from the North Carolina Black Publishers Association; Journalist of the Year from the North Carolina Press Association; and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. In 2002, he was named director of Region IV of the NABJ, and became vice-president of the organization in 2005. Suggs was chosen for the prestigious Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University in 2008, and in 2009, he joined the Nieman Foundation’s board. In 2010, he was the keynote speaker at 61st Annual Honors Convocation at North Carolina Central University; and he was given the Pioneer Black Journalist Award by NABJ in 2013.

Ernie Suggs was interviewed by The History Makers on February 18, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.073

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/18/2014

Last Name

Suggs

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Terrell

Occupation
Schools

PS 241 Emma L Johnston School

J W Parker Middle School

G R Edwards Middle School

Rocky Mount High School

North Carolina Central University

Harvard University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ernie

Birth City, State, Country

Brooklyn

HM ID

SUG02

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

Be The Best You Can Be.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Interview Description
Birth Date

3/18/1967

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Steak

Short Description

Journalist Ernie Suggs (1967 - ) is a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the former vice president of the National Association of Black Journalists, and author of the award-winning series Fighting to Survive: Historically Black Colleges and Universities Face the 21st Century.

Employment

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Durham Herald-Sun

Gannet Westchester Newspapers

Favorite Color

Gold

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159237">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ernie Suggs' interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159238">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ernie Suggs lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159239">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ernie Suggs describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159240">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ernie Suggs talks about his maternal grandmother's education at an all-black boarding school in Whitakers, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159241">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ernie Suggs describes the people who raised his mother: his maternal grandfather, his great aunt Clarene, and Alice Wells</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159242">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ernie Suggs describes his mother's childhood in Edgecombe County, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159243">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ernie Suggs talks about his mother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159244">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ernie Suggs describes his father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159245">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ernie Suggs talks about his father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159246">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ernie Suggs describes his parents' relationship and his similarity to his mother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159247">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ernie Suggs talks about being reunited with his sister</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159248">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ernie Suggs describes his sister's disappearance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159249">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ernie Suggs talks about his sister and her upbringing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159250">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ernie Suggs describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in Brooklyn, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159251">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ernie Suggs reflects upon his childhood neighborhood and his early academic ambitions</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159252">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ernie Suggs talks about growing up in Brooklyn, New York during the 1970s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159253">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ernie Suggs talks about his early interest in the news and attending P.S. 241 in Brooklyn, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159254">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ernie Suggs talks about his favorite teachers and his favorite subjects in elementary school at P.S. 241 in Brooklyn, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159255">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ernie Suggs describes his interest in comic books and the Marvel Universe</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159256">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ernie Suggs explains his mother's decision to move to North Carolina in 1979</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159257">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ernie Suggs talks about the early New York City hip hop scene</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159258">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ernie Suggs talks about his school experiences in North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159259">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ernie Suggs talks about taking college prep courses at Rocky Mount High School in Rocky Mount, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159260">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ernie Suggs talks about his high school extracurricular activities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159261">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ernie Suggs explains the social relations at Rocky Mount High School in Rocky Mount, North Carolina during the 1980s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159262">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ernie Suggs describes his college application process</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159263">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Ernie Suggs recalls his decision to attend North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159264">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ernie Suggs describes HistoryMaker Reverend Jesse L. Jackson's 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159265">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ernie Suggs talks about his mentors at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159266">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ernie Suggs talks about writing for the Rocky Mount Telegram and the Campus Echo, the student newspaper at North Carolina Central University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159267">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ernie Suggs explains his English literature major at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159268">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ernie Suggs talks about his National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) internship at Gannett Westchester Newspapers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159269">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ernie Suggs talks about graduating from North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina and his post-college job plans</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159270">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ernie Suggs describes working for Gannett Westchester Newspapers in Westchester County, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159271">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ernie Suggs explains his responsibilities as a journalist for the Herald Sun in Durham, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159272">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ernie Suggs recalls the stories he covered as a reporter for the Herald Sun in Durham, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159273">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Ernie Suggs talks about reporting on historically black colleges and universities in the late 1990s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159274">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ernie Suggs explains the challenges facing historically black colleges and universities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159275">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ernie Suggs talks about the future of historically black colleges and universities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159276">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ernie Suggs talks about his award-winning series on historically black colleges and universities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159277">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ernie Suggs talks about volunteering at and reporting on the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159278">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ernie Suggs talks about North Carolina Central University's sports programs</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159279">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ernie Suggs talks about joining the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a staff journalist in 1997</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159280">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ernie Suggs talks about his membership in the National Association of Black Journalists</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159281">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ernie Suggs talks about stories and individuals he reported on for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159282">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ernie Suggs describes the movie industry in Atlanta, Georgia and the opportunities the city offers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159283">Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Ernie Suggs talks about Georgia state and Atlanta city politics in the early 21st century</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159284">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ernie Suggs talks about Martin Luther King, III's presidency of the SCLC and the organization's activism in the early 21st century</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159285">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ernie Suggs talks about how Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy has impacted his children</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159286">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ernie Suggs talks about the controversies surrounding the Martin Luther King, Jr. family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159287">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ernie Suggs talks about the legal battles waged by the children of Martin Luther King, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159288">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ernie Suggs talks about the children of Martin Luther King, Jr. and their control over his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159289">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ernie Suggs describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159290">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ernie Suggs recalls his time at Harvard University as a Nieman Journalism Fellow in 2008</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159291">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ernie Suggs talks about his family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/159292">Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Ernie Suggs reflects upon his legacy</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

8$8

DATitle
Ernie Suggs talks about his early interest in the news and attending P.S. 241 in Brooklyn, New York
Ernie Suggs talks about stories and individuals he reported on for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Transcript
Back to the newspapers though, you would--why would you be so desperate to get a newspaper?$$I liked to know what was going on so I would--you know, back in those days and I'm sure it's still now they had the newsstands where the newspapers would just basically be out and I would just walk by and pick one up and just keep walking (laughter). So that was my--that was the existence of my life of crime. So I would steal the [New York] Post, the [New York] Daily News, the New York Times to just kind of read what was going on. I enjoyed--I think I was able to understand the Post and the Daily News a little better because it was about New York, and it always had those spectacular headlines. The New York Times is a little bit high-brow for a preteen. But yeah I would just read it, pick it up and take it to the house, let somebody else read it but you know that was one of things I would do, steal newspapers.$$So there wasn't a particular part, I know you were a sports writer at one point in high school.$$No, it wasn't anything--$$It wasn't because of the sports necessarily.$$No, I would read everything. I would read what was going on in the city, you know, the blackout.$$The blackout was yeah go head.$$The '70s [1970s] there was so much stuff going on in New York City with the blackouts with the bankruptcy, the Bella Abzug and [Mayor] Ed Koch. For me it was a very exciting time. There was always stuff happening. So I would want to know what was going on. I would want to know what was actually going on in the city in terms of murders, the [New York] Yankees of course, TV shows. I loved watching television so reading was probably an extension of that. So yeah I wanted to read everything. I wanted to know what was going on particularly in the city.$$Okay.$$So I imagine I stole the Post and the Daily News more than the Times.$$Did you have any favorite writers in the newspaper?$$No it wasn't any--it was just like what's going on in the news today. I would just go by and snatch it and just keep walking and that was it (laughter).$$Okay.$$I wasn't trying to go see what Bill Madden wrote or anything.$$So at P.S. 241 [Emma L. Johnston School, Brooklyn, New York] you're in a gifted program and like who's in school with you? Is it mostly African American or is it mixed?$$It's mostly African Americans. It's a Brooklyn neighborhood so it's mostly African American but it was--it had a good deal of diversity as well particularly in the gifted program.$$Okay.$$So, yeah as I said the diversity was there. I mean, I learned a lot about diversity in New York in, at P.S. 241 in terms of different cultures, languages, different types of people.$I know you said James Mallory was here already at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution but what else attracted you to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution?$$Atlanta [Georgia], you know Atlanta at that time was the black mecca, so to speak, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. It was only five hours away from North Carolina--my home in North Carolina so I can drive quickly. I had a lot of friends who were moving here and people were always just talking about Atlanta as this place that people were coming to that you can make a lot of money. There was a big music scene that was coming about that was kind of changing. Atlanta was becoming a focus of that. Not that I was a music person but Atlanta was becoming the focus of a lot of things and it was a place that--it was a big city and you know as I said, you always want to go to a bigger city when you work for a newspaper. So Atlanta was at the top of my list. It was always at the top of the list and you know New York [City], of course, going back to New York to work in the city. But Atlanta was a reasonable place that was close and it was kind of southern and I had kind of gotten used to the whole southern thing living in North Carolina so this was the place where I wanted to come.$$Okay what were some of the notable stories that you've been involved in with your writing here in Atlanta?$$Well I've been here since 1997 as you said so that's about seventeen years so I've covered everything. I came here as a night cops reporter. So my first job--it's weird because after covering all this great stuff in Durham where you're kind of the big fish in the little pond, you become the little fish here. So my first job for the first six months was night cops. So I would come in every day at 3:00 and work until 12:00 until after the news went off covering cops. Shootings, accidents, traffic jams just you know you name it, I did it. So I did that for about six months then I moved on to education, covered higher education and then K-12. So I've basically covered everything at this paper that you can cover. I've covered cops, education, I've done some sports, I've done some features. I've done crime, of course, but the thing that I cover that's kind of always been an overriding theme of all my coverage has been race. I've covered government politics, elections but race has always been kind of the main area that I've become--that I've become an expert in, that a lot of my coverage always kind of goes back to. So if I'm covering government or if I'm covering politics and something racial happens or there is a racial or an event that happens or some situation that involves race, I'm usually the guy that gets pulled in to cover that because of my expertise and because of my interest in it. So with Atlanta being the home of the Civil Rights Movement because of the people who live here. So I've covered [HM] Joseph Lowery and [HM] C.T. Vivian and Hosea Williams and [HM] Andrew Young and [HM] Fred Shuttlesworth and you know, [Reverend Dr.] Martin Luther King [Jr.], his life and legacy hovers over all of that. So I've covered everything about the King legacy since day one. Since I've gotten here that's kind of been what I've been in charge of doing. So I'm that guy who covers all of that and it's been great 'cause these are the kind of people when you talk about the history, I've always had a keen interest in history, these are the kind of people I read about growing up. These are the people that I--and to be able to meet Coretta Scott King and [Andrew] Andy Young and Joseph Lowery--Joseph Lowery performed my wedding. So these are the kind of people that I've read about who I kind of consider the second founding fathers of the country that I'm covering now on a regular basis who call me every now--it's funny we talked about [HM Reverend] Jesse [L.] Jackson and my first kind of experience watching his campaign. You know, Jesse Jackson has my cell phone number and I--sometimes I look on my phone and I see, oh man Jesse's calling and I don't have time to talk to him right now (laughter). You know what I'm saying so it's kind of weird that you know, this guy that you grew up idolizing now becomes kind of a peer or someone that you kind of can, you know, feel comfortable talking to and kind of reaching out to and, and associating yourself with.