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Roz Abrams

Broadcast journalist Roslyn Maria “Roz” Abrams was born on September 7, 1948 in Lansing, Michigan. She received her B.S. degree in sociology from Western Michigan University, and her M.S. degree in speech from the University of Michigan.

Abrams worked first as a reporter for WJIM in Lansing, Michigan, and then as an anchor and reporter for WSB-AM radio from 1975 to 1978. She went on to work as a news reporter/anchor at WXIA-TV in Atlanta, Georgia from 1978 to 1982, at CNN from 1982 to 1983, and at KRON-TV in San Francisco, California from 1983 to 1986. In 1986, Abrams joined WABC-TV in New York City, first as weekend anchor and general assignment reporter, and later as co-anchor of Eyewitness News at 5 p.m. She was the first African American female journalist to join WABC-TV, and the second anchorwoman of color in the New York City television market. While there, Abrams covered a number of major stories and events, including the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; the blackout of 2003; the end of apartheid in South Africa; and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. She left WABC-TV in 2003; and, in 2004, was hired by New York City’s WCBS-TV as the co-anchor of CBS2 News at 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. Abrams left WCBS-TV in 2006 and retired from journalism in 2010.

Abrams was the first African American vice president of the Atlanta Press Club. She has served on the editorial advisory board of “Making Waves,” a quarterly publication of American Women in Radio and Television. Abrams served as an advisory board member for the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, where she also funds a scholarship program. In addition, she has served on the board of Women in Film and the New York City Police Athletic League, and as co-chair of New York Reads Together and CAUSE-NY.

Abrams received a New York Association of Black Journalists Award for the special "The Sounds of Harlem," and received the Ed Bradley Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. She won a local Emmy in 2004 and a Gracie Award in 2006. She was also awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the New York Institute of Technology, and has been named a news legend by the Friars Club. In 2013, Abrams received the Elinor Guggenheimer Lifetime Achievement Award from New York Women’s Agenda.

Abrams resides in Westchester County, New York. She has two grown daughters, Denise and Melissa, and four grandchildren.

Roz Abrams was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 17, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.044

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/17/2014

Last Name

Abrams

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Maria

Schools

Main Street Elementary School

West Junior High School

J.W. Sexton High School

Western Michigan University

University of Michigan

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Weekends

First Name

Roslyn

Birth City, State, Country

Lansing

HM ID

ABR02

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Teens and Seniors

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

No

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard

Favorite Quote

It Takes A Giant To Bend.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

9/7/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Steak, Chicken, Hamburgers, and French Fries.

Short Description

Broadcast journalist Roz Abrams (1948 - ) was a pioneer in broadcast journalism and served as a news anchor for WABC-TV and WCBS-TV in New York City.

Employment

WJIM TV

WLTA FM Radio

WSB Radio

KRON TV

WXIA TV

WABC TV

WCBS TV

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96045">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Roz Abrams' interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96046">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Roz Abrams lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96047">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Roz Abrams talks about her mother, Esther Caldwell Abrams</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96048">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Roz Abrams describes her paternal family history</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96049">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Roz Abrams talks about her two siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96050">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Roz Abrams describes her earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96051">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Roz Abrams talks about the impact of her parents' divorce on her</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96052">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Roz Abrams describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood in Lansing, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96053">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Roz Abrams talks about her parents' divorce and their support for her</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96054">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Roz Abrams describes her religious upbringing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96055">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Roz Abrams recalls being disciplined as a child</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96056">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Roz Abrams remembers her grade school years</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96057">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Roz Abrams talks about going to therapy after her parents' divorce</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96068">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Roz Abrams talks about her father's photography and her mother's ambition for her children</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96069">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Roz Abrams shares her memories of family gatherings during the holidays</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96070">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Roz Abrams describes her childhood neighborhood and her mother's determination to expose her to cultural activities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96071">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Roz Abrams talks about growing up with a prettier older sister</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96072">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Roz Abrams describes her admission to Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96073">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Roz Abrams talks about her experience at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96074">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Roz Abrams talks about her graduate studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96075">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Roz Abrams describes her entry into journalism at WJIM TV in Lansing, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96076">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Roz Abrams describes her career as a broadcast journalist in Atlanta, Georgia during the 1970s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96077">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Roz Abrams talks about groundbreaking African American journalists including HistoryMakers Jocelyn Dorsey, Monica Kaufman, Xernona Clayton, and Belva Davis</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96085">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Roz Abrams describes her husband, Kenneth Showers, pt.1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96086">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Roz Abrams describes her husband, Kenneth Showers, pt.2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96087">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Roz Abrams describes her experience at CNN in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96088">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Roz Abrams recalls black anchors in Atlanta, Georgia and the decline of African Americans on air</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96089">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Roz Abrams talks about reporting and mistakes on air</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96090">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Roz Abrams talks about lessons she learned from her mentor at CNN, Bob Cain</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96091">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Roz Abrams talks about Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96092">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Roz Abrams describes her move from CNN to KRON TV in San Francisco, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96093">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Roz Abrams talks about working with agents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96097">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Roz Abrams talks about the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the United States</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96098">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Roz Abrams describes how she attracted viewers in San Francisco, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96099">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Roz Abrams talks about her colleagues at KRON TV including HistoryMaker Belva Davis</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96100">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Roz Abrams talks about her decision to leave KRON TV for WABC TV in New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96101">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Roz Abrams talks about her adopted daughters, Denise and Melissa</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96102">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Roz Abrams recalls her acquaintances in the Bay Area</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96103">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Roz Abrams talks about juggling home life while working as an anchor in New York City, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96104">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Roz Abrams describes working at WABC TV with Oprah Winfrey, Melba Tolliver, Roger Grimsby, Bill Beutel</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96105">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Roz Abrams talks about her priorities as an anchor</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96106">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Roz Abrams talks about her early years, her co-anchors, and the news director at WABC TV</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96107">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Roz Abrams talks about learning to fulfill beauty standards as an anchorwoman</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96108">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Roz Abrams talks about Roger Grimsby and her mentor, Chickie Bucco</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96109">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Roz Abrams recalls memorable stories from her news career, pt.1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96110">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Roz Abrams recalls memorable stories from her news career, pt.2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96111">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Roz Abrams talks about her least favorite assignments and her weekly magazine show "New York Views"</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96112">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Roz Abrams recalls the consequences of asking a gotcha question during HistoryMaker David Dinkins' mayoral debate</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96113">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Roz Abrams talks about HistoryMaker David Dinkins' mayoral term</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96114">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Roz Abrams talks about the Northeast blackout of 2003 and New York City's communities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96115">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Roz Abrams remembers her father, Herbert Abrams</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96116">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Roz Abrams talks about her father and his attempts to trace the family genealogy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96117">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Roz Abrams talks about leaving WABC TV for WCBS TV</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96118">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Roz Abrams describes her activities after leaving her news career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96119">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Roz Abrams talks about the end of her marriage to Kenneth Showers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96120">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Roz Abrams talks about retired life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96121">Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Roz Abrams talks about her hopes for the future</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96122">Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Roz Abrams reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96123">Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Roz Abrams talks about how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96124">Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Roz Abrams describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/96125">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Roz Abrams narrates her photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

5$2

DATitle
Roz Abrams recalls memorable stories from her news career, pt.1
Roz Abrams talks about the Northeast blackout of 2003 and New York City's communities
Transcript
So what parts of--so let--let's--I want to understand your--the stories that still stand--stay--you know, stick out with you. You talked about the AIDS crisis and KR--you know, when you were in San Francisco [California]. But what are the news stories in, you know, this long career that you've here? What are the news stories that stick out to you? You talked about the 19--I don't know if you talk about the 1984 convention. You talked about (simultaneous)--$$Eighty-four [1984], when watching a woman [Geraldine Ferraro] be nominated vice president, and nobody knew it was coming, at least I didn't. And I just said, my God, this could happen. A woman--because I'm a feminist. You gotta remember I was covering Gloria Steinem when she was saying you have to have equal pay for equal work, and I took that to heart. And I said when I ever get in the position to be really good, I'm not gonna sit next to somebody who makes hundreds of thousands of dollars more than I do. Now that's easier said than done. And most of the time I would tell my agent don't sell me cheap. You know, I may not get it the first year; I may not--but if we got a four-year contract, I need to be there at the end of the four years just so that I can look at myself in the mirror and say Roz, it's okay. And he goes oh, you are so full of it, but he did it. He did it on my behalf and at my behest. So much of the time because I was a feminist, I was always fighting to get women for sound bites. You gotta remember, back in the '70s [1970s] it was male everything unless you were talking about women's issues. And I would spend so much time in Atlanta [Georgia] trying to find a woman to give me a sound bite because it was critical, it was important, and they were out there. It's just that nobody at that point in time was willing to talk to a woman about MARTA [Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority], because all the people doing MARTA, the top people were men. But there were women in positions of power, and you just had to find them. So the stories were the stories, but I was always looking to bring--if I could, bring women into them, especially if it was a long going four-year, five-year story. I did a whole lot of crime. I have seen a lot of dead bodies, and that--that's stays with you. When you see people who have been--I walked into an apartment--they said Roz, there's something going down on Auburn Avenue, da, da, da, da. I'm in radio. I run in, and there is a woman with a butcher knife through her--and it's so deep in the door that it's holding her up. And they haven't covered her; they haven't taken her down; I was not prepared.$$There--a dam burst at a school called Toccoa Falls. They called me at 4:00 in the morning. They said Roz, get up, go to Toccoa Falls. All we know is that there is a dam that burst. And by the time I got there, the dormitory--it was a very, very small Christian school. The dormitory, which was identified as a dormitory four stories high, the bottom two stories were filled with silt and sand from floor to ceiling. And you knew that in every single one of those rooms there were two roommates who never saw it coming. And I remember it like--they'd, they'd give you details, and luckily I was still in radio. But I can remember as I was giving these radio reports with my hands shaking, because there was death, and it was the death of young people, and there were mothers and fathers who started to arrive, and there was screaming. All of that affects you. It doesn't just roll off. It, it sort of sits somewhere.$$And then you'll be doing an interview on AIDS in San Francisco, and you're talking to a kid from Norway who came to San Francisco as a hippie. And he was sleeping in a field to raise money for the cause of AIDS. And he didn't have the money. There were ten of them sleeping in a field, and a tractor came through, didn't know these kids were sleeping there, ran over all of them, left them all with major spinal cord injuries. And you're talking to this guy and your--and suddenly you just lose it. You just go how could this happen to this kid? And you were talking to him because he said I have no regrets. I'm still raising money for AIDS in my wheelchair.$And then what other news stories in the--in the '90s [1990s] that, that were sort of critical? What other--$$The covering the, the blackout in 2000 [sic, 2003] and whatever.$$Yeah, the blackout.$$That was--that was--that was such a throwback to a time--we're not used to not having power in Manhattan [New York City, New York], no streetlights, no--how do you get home first of all? None of the streetlights were working. You had to drive very slow.$$Talk, talk about what happened and then what--$$Part of the Northeast went out, not us. Part of the Northeast went out so we knew it was coming. We were covering that aspect. We were preparing to do our shows about this swath in the Northeast when we were suddenly plunged into darkness. And even though we have backup generators, it took a very long time to get Channel 7 back on the air, a very--we were hours off the air because it takes so much power. And 9/11 taught us you don't put your microwaves on top of buildings that can be brought down because that can destroy your signal. We were off the air unless you had cable. But we never thought about the basics of electricity, how much electricity it takes to keep a television station running. You have to have enough lights to write by, hundreds of computers on every floor, air conditioning, heating. And we were--we were off the air for a long time. But when we went out to do the stories, there were people sitting out on their stoops just like they used to do in the summer a long time ago when they didn't have air conditioning and they didn't have TV. And people were like dancing in the streets, and they--you're not supposed to take liquor outside of bars, but you know, the police were just doing policing. You could go and, and sit outside and drink a beer and talk to people. We connected. We connected as a city in, in ways that I have never seen before. So on one level it was sweltering. Hospitals were tremendously affected, and the city learned from that. But it was--it was a throwback to a time--I really liked being out talking to people who were on the stoops. And if they had an old person there, like oh, I remember when we used to do this back in the '40s [1940s], oh yeah, da, da, da, before there was television to keep us inside and--it was--it, it was a little frightening because you say if it goes down again, it's bad. But it wasn't for that long a time. And you saw this city, and people with candles, and people talking to each other in a way they didn't before.$$So you really--what you're also describing--well, that's 2001. Prego (ph.) to that--well, what you're also describing is a lot of community that--$$Well, that's how New York is, communities--I mean the, the communities where people live there all their lives, and their parents die, and they stay in their parents' home. It's changing now in Manhattan, and I--it--because there's so much--it costs so much to live in Manhattan now. Harlem [Manhattan, New York City, New York] has, has been gentrified. But when I started here in the mid '80s [1980s], it was--it was nothing but communities with a certain type of people that did things a certain way and traditions, you know, the Jewish communities, the Haitian communities, Harlem, Spanish Harlem. They were like beautiful little worlds, and I was not used to most of these communities. I was prepared for living with a lot of black folk because of Atlanta, but I'd never really been in a large Jewish community. I'd never been to a seder. I--and I was like a sponge. I wanted to learn. I wanted to learn about Haitian foods and Haitian culture. I wanted to learn about Jewish food and the religion. And so this was a great place to be a sponge, and I was.$$You became part of New York, and New York became part of you.$$It did and I am so much better for it. I can't live anywhere else. Can you imagine me going back to Lansing, Michigan? Oh my God, never--that's not an option. I can't even go back and be comfortable in Atlanta [Georgia] anymore.