Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press

Amistad: HarperCollins. Feb. 2015. 480p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780062198853. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062198877. COMM
African American newspapers arose to cover issues of concern that were ignored by mainstream media outlets. Ethel Payne (1911–91), a pioneering journalist, covered the civil rights movement for The Chicago Defender, a premier black newspaper. Biographer Morris (Pulitzer) details Payne's work, preserving her legacy and filling in part of the missing history of the fight for equality. Payne arrived in Washington, DC, as the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision challenged the future of segregation. She stepped into her journalistic role by confronting President Dwight Eisenhower with questions on racial issues, along with reporting on prominent politicians and civil rights leaders from the 1950s until her death. Payne traveled frequently, venturing to the South to cover key civil rights events, to South Africa with vice president Nixon to interview Nelson Mandela, and to Vietnam to document the experience of African American troops. Above all, she witnessed the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and was a lifelong activist.
VERDICT The rich use of sources and glimpses of Payne's personal life will engage readers interested in civil rights, journalism, and women's history.
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