African American Foreign Correspondents
Publication Year: 2003
Published by: Louisiana State University Press
Series: Media and Public Affairs
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
This book began as a result of a conversation that John “Jack” Maxwell Hamilton and I had when he was working on his history of American foreign reporting. Jack, who was dean of the Manship School of Mass Communication at the time, asked if I had ever heard of John “Rover” Jordan, an African American foreign ...
Mary Ann Shadd Cary was a self-assured and fiercely independent twenty-eight-year-old when she headed north to Canada almost one year to the day after passage of the Compromise of 1850, which strengthened the Fugitive Slave Act. The measure, aimed at minimizing regional strife as the United States expanded westward, appeased slave owners by allowing armed pursuit ...
1. The Genesis
When former slave Frederick Douglass boarded the Cambria steamship for Great Britain on a hot August day in 1845, he was on his way to becoming the first African American foreign correspondent. Douglass was well aware that the issue of slavery transcended national borders. His travels and speeches in the United States had left him hungry to take his message farther. Great ...
2. Changing Landscape: No Longer an Individual Endeavor
T. Thomas Fortune traveled to Manila in February 1903 on a special assignment for the Department of the Treasury. His friend Booker T. Washington had convinced President Theodore Roosevelt to select the veteran journalist and race leader to gather information about trade in the Philippines. “I did not find one of them begging bread in Manila or in the ...
3. The Quest to Cover Our Fighting Men
In August 1914, Carl James Murphy boarded the steamship Bremen in Baltimore, bound for the University of Jena in Germany. Soon after he arrived, he turned his attention to the tense situation in Europe, where the world was on the verge of its first major war. The Afro-American ran his letters home as front-page stories...
4. Compelled to Scour the World: The Interwar Years
With fifteen hundred dollars from the National Association for the Advance-ment of Colored People (NAACP) to cover his expenses, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois sailed for France on December 1, 1918. “I did not talk—I went,”1 the editor of the organization’s magazine The Crisis noted years later. Du Bois had acted swiftly when he learned of an unexpected opportunity to ...
5. Robert Abbott Finds a Racial Paradise
As a Negro and a product of North American traditions, my natural, logical reaction was the desire to reach some clear, positive conclusions as to the real depth and extent of the Brazilian democratic spirit or to what degree it was truly inclusive of the Negro. This was Robert Sengstacke Abbott’s explanation for why he had traveled to South America in 1923 to gather news.1 He began his journey with an agenda, ...
6. The 1930s: A Defining Decade
In 1932, Homer Smith became the Chicago Defender’s correspondent from Russia. Using the pen name Chatwood Hall, he filed primarily from Moscow but also from Kiev, Odessa, and other locales. The Defender had made foreign coverage routine by establishing the foreign news service in the 1920s. Publisher Robert S. Abbott wanted the Defender to be the leader in the black press during ...
7. Getting the Inside Information: The Italian-Ethiopian War
The 1930s had barely begun when Tafari Makonnen was crowned Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia. The country had a rich history that dated back more than two thousand years, and Selassie claimed direct descent from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. His ascent in the independent black state was a source of pride for blacks’ psyche. Black editors viewed coverage of ...
8. A Racialized View of the Spanish Civil War
And well have the American Negro volunteers realized that the first stage of the world fight for racial justice lies right here and now in Spain. Negroes in the states have to be rightly proud of Salaria Kee and of the colored volunteers over here. They are an honor With these words, Nancy Cunard offered one reason the black press covered the ...
9. World War II: The Fight for the Right
On July 18, 1942, the front page of the Pittsburgh Courier promoted its first black foreign correspondent of World War II, Edgar Rouzeau. On his way back to the Egyptian front, Rouzeau was “assembling stories on what America’s black fighters [were] doing for Democracy abroad and at home.”1 He had set the tone for his correspondence in an article on the causes of the war and its ...
10. Spotlight on Africa
When Ebony was founded half a century ago, Africa was still viewed in White America as the Dark Continent occupied largely by savage tribes and ferocious jungle beasts. Little, if anything, was written in the U.S. press about the ravages and exploitation visited on Africa and its people by greedy European colonialists and even less about the valiant struggle waged by ...
11. Tan Yanks in an Integrated Military
James Hicks and Albert Hinton boarded an airplane in the United States on their way to cover the Korean conflict in 1950, but only one of them made it. Hinton, the managing editor of the Norfolk Journal and Guide in Virginia, was to report for that weekly and other black publications that relied heavily on the Negro Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) news service. Hicks was ...
12. Defiance in the Name of Press Freedom
On a cold Christmas Eve in 1956, William Worthy Jr. went to his room on the Harvard University campus, where he was a Nieman fellow, and found a visa and a cablegram had been slid under his door. The cable invited Worthy to travel to China as a reporter. He hastened to Boston’s Logan Airport before the State Department could get on his trail and flew to Tokyo. From there he ...
13. Vietnam: A Turning Point
...“Our man in Vietnam is a woman,”1 the Chicago Daily Defender announced on December 17, 1966. The newspaper had dispatched Ethel Payne to cover the war in Southeast Asia. Publisher John Sengstacke had called Payne, who was based in Washington. She flew to Chicago to discuss the proposition. “[I]t would be a unique thing. ...
14. In the Mainstream: Africa and Beyond
Leon Dash of the Washington Post spent most of the early 1970s trekking through Africa with guerrillas who were trying to wrest Angola from Portu-guese colonial rule. Dash was not viewed as a foreign correspondent but as a reporter who had seized the chance to have a front-row view of Angola’s march toward independence. He made two private trips and one sanctioned by the ...
When I began this project, the names of only two black foreign correspon-dents came to mind—CBS’s Ed Bradley and CNN’s Bernard Shaw. Bradley’s reports from Vietnam during that war and his subsequent reports from abroad, and Shaw’s gripping reporting from under a hotel bed in Baghdad during Operation Desert Storm still conjure up images of daring and dogged pursuit of ...