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Ron Allen

Journalist Ron Allen was born in 1957. His mother, Shirley Allen, was a school secretary; his father, Lindsay L. Allen Jr., was a cargo sales manager at Newark International Airport. Allen received both his B.A. degree and M.A. degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1980, Allen was hired as a desk assistant for a CBS news station in New York City. From 1988 until 1992, he worked as a national correspondent for CBS News based in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, California. In 1992, Allen was appointed as a foreign correspondent for ABC News, and served in London until 1996. He was then hired by NBC News in 1996 as a national and international correspondent, where he covered stories of interest across the United States and around the world. Allen was based in London until 2003, when he moved to New York.

As a national and international correspondent, Allen covered the O.J. Simpson trials, the Trayvon Martin shooting, the abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University, the historic Arab Spring from Cairo, Egypt, and the devastating earthquake in Haiti. He has traveled to South Africa several times to cover the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. Allen also covered the historic 2008 Presidential election campaign, where he reported from Chicago’s Grant Park the night of President Barack Obama’s victory. In all, he has traveled to more than seventy-five countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Balkans, Israel and the Palestinian territories, and across Africa, in countries such as Rwanda, South Africa and Somalia, among others. Allen’s reports have appeared on all of NBC’s news platforms including “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams,” “Today,” and MSNBC.

Allen’s work has earned him many of journalism’s highest honors, including six Overseas Press Club Awards, five Emmys, two Robert F. Kennedy Awards, two George Foster Peabody Awards, and two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Awards. In 1996, the National Association of Black Journalists named him journalist of the year. Allen has also served on the University of Pennsylvania’s Board of Overseers, the Board of the Overseas Press Club, and the Leadership Council of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Allen lives in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area with his wife, Adaora Udoji, and daughter.

Ron Allen was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 9, 2013.

Accession Number

A2014.033

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/18/2014

Last Name

Allen

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Lindsay

Occupation
Schools

P.S. 38 James F. Murray School

St Peter's Preparatory School

University of Pennsylvania

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ronald

Birth City, State, Country

Jersey City

HM ID

ALL06

Favorite Season

Spring, Early Summer

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Favorite Quote

Sounds Good.$What's Happening?

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/22/1957

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Candied Yams

Short Description

Journalist Ron Allen (1957 - ) was a national and international correspondent for over twenty-five years at CBS, ABC and NBC News, and was responsible for the initial coverage of the Rwandan genocide.

Employment

NBC News

ABC News / London

CBS News / Los Angeles, Wash DC

WCVB-TV Boston

WFSB-TV

WBTV

CBS News

US Department of Commerce Census Bureau

Atlantic Community College

Favorite Color

Indigo Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ron Allen's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ron Allen lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ron Allen describes his father's influence

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ron Allen remembers adopting his daughter from Ethiopia

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ron Allen talks about his father's community in Jersey City, New Jersey

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ron Allen describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ron Allen describes his siblings and extended family

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ron Allen talks about his sister

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ron Allen describes his earliest childhood memories

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

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ron Allen recalls his early experiences of religions, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ron Allen recalls his early experiences of religions, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ron Allen talks about his interest in sports

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ron Allen remembers his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ron Allen describes his family's emphasis on education

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ron Allen remembers enrolling at St. Peter's Preparatory School in Jersey City, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ron Allen describes his activities at St. Peter's Preparatory School

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ron Allen recalls describes his education at St. Peter's Preparatory School

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ron Allen recalls his decision to attend the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ron Allen describes his experiences at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ron Allen remembers playing basketball at the University of Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ron Allen recalls his master's degree program at the University of Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ron Allen talks about his summer activities during college

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ron Allen recalls the start of his career in broadcast journalism

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ron Allen remembers joining CBS News

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ron Allen describes the racial demographics of the CBS News room

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ron Allen talks about the minority training program at WCVB-TV in Charlotte, North Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ron Allen talks about his aspiration to become a foreign correspondent

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ron Allen recalls his transition to WCVB-TV in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ron Allen describes his work as an investigative reporter, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ron Allen describes his work as an investigative reporter, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ron Allen recalls his time at the CBS News bureau in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ron Allen remembers becoming a CBS News correspondent in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ron Allen recalls his start as a foreign correspondent, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ron Allen recalls his start as a foreign correspondent, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ron Allen recalls his transition to ABC News

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ron Allen describes the ABC News bureau in London, England

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ron Allen remembers lessons from his time as a foreign correspondent

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ron Allen talks about his coverage of the Rwandan genocide, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ron Allen talks about his coverage of the Rwandan genocide, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ron Allen reflects upon his growth as a foreign correspondent

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ron Allen talks about his decision to adopt a child from Ethiopia

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ron Allen remembers meeting his wife at the O.J. Simpson trial

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ron Allen talks about his transition to NBC News

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Ron Allen remembers his father's death

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ron Allen reflects upon his parents' support for his career

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ron Allen recalls his dangerous experiences as a foreign correspondent, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ron Allen recalls his dangerous experiences as a foreign correspondent, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ron Allen reflects upon his transition to domestic news correspondence

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ron Allen talks about diversity in broadcast journalism, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ron Allen talks about diversity in broadcast journalism, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ron Allen describes his plans for the future

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ron Allen reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Ron Allen reflects upon the legacy of his generation

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Ron Allen reflects upon the legacy of African Americans in the United States

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ron Allen narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

4$3

DATitle
Ron Allen talks about his coverage of the Rwandan genocide, pt. 1
Ron Allen recalls his dangerous experiences as a foreign correspondent, pt. 2
Transcript
But you've talked about Rwanda when we were off camera, about that being a significant assignment for you. And I think we were looking at your photos I think. Am I right--wrong about that? I think (unclear) (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, yeah, ra, ra--Rwanda was the genocide. There were close to a million people massacred in a very short period of time and--$$And tell why.$$This was a conflict between ethnic groups, the Hutu, majority, and the Tutsi, minority. And in so many African countries, post-colonial--on a post-colonial situation, what, what the colonizers often did was they would take a minority group and essentially conspire with them to run the show to keep the majority group or majority groups in check. And this happened in many places in Africa, and it happened in Rwanda. And then the lid blew off that when the president's [Juvenal Habyarimana] plane crashed, and over years and years of, of the Hutu, majority, feeling like they were being taken advantage of by the minority, Tutsi. So this war broke out, and, and all these people were massacred. And we were--when, when all this started we are in South Africa, it was 1994, and South Africa wa- was just having their first democratic elections. Nelson Mandela was becoming president, and I believe this is April of '94 [1994]. And that is one of the most memorable things I'll--I've, I've ever experienced as well, just seeing the South Africans voting for the first time. I'd been to South Africa a, a number of times up to that point, and when I moved to London [England] one of the first things I wanted to do was get to South Africa because apartheid hadn't ended. And I wanted to see, and experience, and understand what this place was. And I'd studied a bit about it in school [University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] and for the obvious reasons. And the morning of the election, the enduring images of long lines of people standing in this misty morning waiting forever, if they had to, to go vote. Some (unclear) really didn't understand what they were doing. I was in a place, KwaZulu-Natal [South Africa], which was you know, a fairly rural area. Most people are illiterate, you know, they had no real concept of democracy and all that. But this is what they were doing, and they were told it was gonna make life better, and so here, here it was. And, and that was one of the most profound things I've ever seen as well. So after the election, there are these rumblings about this refugee problem, these people fleeing this country north of South Africa--in the middle of Africa--to Rwanda. Who knew--who--what's Rwanda? Nobody really--I mean, people knew, but I didn't really know about it. And so when it really started, the numbers started getting bad, and people started appearing in camps across the--across the border in Tanzania and in Burundi in the other direction. And so we hopped on a plane and flew first to a, a little remote part of Tanzania, and that's where the first camps were of refugees forming. And people are telling this horrible, awful stories about what was going on inside this country. And you couldn't get in from there. You didn't wanna go in from there because it wasn't safe. The borders were sealed off, and people were just living in, in this, this misery and awful conditions in these camps, because all of a sudden it's--you know, there's like hundreds and thousands of people living in the field where there's nothing to sustain them. You know, there's no--you know, they're just there because that's the safe place the way you could walk to across the border. And then we--at, at one point, after doing that for a while, we flew--we flew to Uganda to the north, and we embedded or hooked up with the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the RPF, which was the, the rebel group--Tutsi led rebel group that was gonna try and liberate the country and, and fight the majority Hutu. And so we came--we came down into, into the capital with this military unit, and we were amongst the first to actually see what was going on inside the country, and it was horrific. I mean, it was just everywhere you looked there were--there were people who--dead bodies.$And then the, the next morning, we were presented--we had to appear before a judge, a court--(air quotes) was a financial court of some, some kind. And in, in my case what they found, in my baggage was--there was a--I was getting all my mail shipped to me because I was in Baghdad [Iraq] so long from the London [England] office. And as part of my 401(k) plan with the company, there's a disbursement of savings bonds that you get, and that, that you--they literally send you a chunk of bonds, and, and that was in my mail, and it came to me in Baghdad. And so when they went through our stuff, the border guards saw these things that had [President] George Washington and Ben Franklin's [Benjamin Franklin] picture and said 100--you know, savings bonds that looked like currency. So that was illegal currency that I had brought in. My colleagues, meanwhile, had, you know--well, greenbacks. They had--you know. Because we were leaving, we shut down the office and everything was done in cash, so they had--they took, you know sixty--we had lots of money. And we had these satellite telephones that they--were illegal there too as well. So, make a long story short, when I appeared before the judge, these are financial people, and they knew what this was, and they knew this was my money. And they said, "Oh, okay, you're fine; that's--you're, you're not guilty. We understand that's your money and we're not gonna penalize, but your colleagues however, they're guilty. They're guilty of smuggling--," or whatever and bat- and so we ordered to pay this huge fine. And we scraped the money together from our colleagues who were still in, in, in, in Baghdad, and NBC sent some money here or there or something and, and, and we got out. The whole thing probably took about thirty-six hours or so. And then the war started like the next day. But that--that's one reason. There have been a couple of close calls along the way and a couple of very tense moments. And I guess, not to over--not to be overly dramatic, but I've always believed that there are--you only get a few of those, and I don't know whether it's three or four or nine lives, but I know there's only a limited number of them. And I kind of felt like, okay, this happened. There are--there were other incidents. There was a, a moment in Rwanda when we were pinned down at--near a border, and there was gunfire going in different directions over us, and there was--there was another moment in Zaire, I think where we were. I think there was a, a soldier didn't like something and took us into detention and--I think it's one of the few times I've actually had a gun to my head, where they were--they were sort of pointing it at me. And so and there have been just bad times (laughter). So the combination of the traveling, and getting married [to Adaora Udoji], and being away from family, and these bad experiences--all of the wonderful experiences as well--we decided we needed to move back to the states. And I also wanted to know, okay, so what do you--what do you cash all this in for? You know, what do you in a--in a job professional sense--what is all this worth, all this stuff? And I--and I wanted a different life than I--than I had. Sometimes we--to honest with you, I've been back not ten years and I wonder why I came back (laughter). I know why I came because the travel just became--after 9/11 [September 11, 2001], we were expected to go places and spend six weeks in Kandahar [Afghanistan] or six weeks in wherever, and it just became too much. So, so that's why we moved back.