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Black History: Special Delivery!!


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Black History: Special Delivery!!

Journalist Charles Blow’s 6/7/20 New York Times article, Allies Don’t Fail Us Again shares a thought provoking quote. With recent protests, nationally and internationally calling for reform following the death of George Floyd, “This is not the social justice Coachella. This is not systemic racism Woodstock. This has to be a forever commitment, even after protest eventually subsides.” Power to his pen!

“A Red Record”:  A History of Lynching Documented By Ida B. Wells Barnett

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Ida B. Wells Barnett (1862-1931)

Published in 1895, by journalist and activist, Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931), “A Red Record” was a pamphlet designed to recount America’s history of lynching African Americans. The term “lynching” dates back to the late 1700’s. The term was named after a frontier judge named Charles Lynch. Lynch was known for quickly dispensing of jury trials, preferring instead to use hangings as a way to quickly mete out justice. Thus, the hangings, came to be known as lynchings. Lynching is really an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of ways that someone could be put to death. Ida B. Wells Barnett made it her life’s work to speak out against this unjust practice. She was a skilled orator and journalist. “A Red Record” served as another way in which she could fight against the unjust practice of lynching.

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Ethel Lois Payne:  “The First Lady” Of The Black Press

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Ethel Lois Payne (1891-1991)

Ethel Lois Payne (1911-1991) embarked on a career in journalism that would ultimately position her as one of the leading African American journalists of her era. She was born in Chicago, IL. Her father was a Pullman Porter. Her family resided in the all black community of Englewood. She was the 5th of 6th children. Her father died when she was 12, leaving her family with little financial support. Her mother worked as a domestic and also took in borders to help support the family following her husband’s death. Payne’s mother recognized her talent for writing early-on and encourage her to perfect her skills. Payne attend Lindblom High School. To get to school, she had to walk through a segregated neighborhood each day where she was subjected to racial slurs and having rocks thrown at her.

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Despite these challenges, she excelled in English and History. Her English teacher urged her to submit one of her stories to a magazine. Her submission was approved for publication. Initially Payne decided to pursue a law degree. However, her application to the University of Chicago Law School was denied because of her race.

Payne began working as a journalist for the Chicago Defender in 1951. She covered many significant events such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, March On Washington, Vietnam War, Apartheid, and many other stories. She also accompanied Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on a six nation tour of Africa in 1976. Payne was well known for asking tough questions. Payne considered her role as a journalist to also be a platform for civil rights advocacy and she didn’t hesitate to use it as such. In 1972 she became the first African-American woman radio and television commentator on a national network, working on CBS’s program Spectrum from 1972 to 1978, and after that with Matters of Opinion until 1982. She ws the first African American woman to serve in those roles. She remained with CBS for 10 years. A few years before her death, Payne said,

I stick to my firm, unshakeable belief that the black press is an advocacy press, and that I, as a part of that press, can’t afford the luxury of being unbiased . . . when it comes to issues that really affect my people, and I plead guilty, because I think that I am an instrument of change.

–Ethel Lois Payne


Carole Simpson: Trailblazing African American Journalist

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Carole Simpson (1940 – ) is an award winning pioneer in the field of broadcast journalism. As an African American female journalist, she has achieved many “firsts” in the field.

Simpson was born in Chicago, IL in 1940. She excelled in school was encouraged to go into teaching because of the lack of opportunities available to women and people of color in the field of journalism.

Simpson attended the University of Illinois and then transferred to the University of Michigan where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1962. She was the only African American journalism major in her graduating class. Her first job after college was working at Tuskegee University as a journalism instructor as well director of the university’s information department.

She began her broadcast career at WWTW, a public access station in Chicago. Simpson would go on to achieve several “firsts” throughout her 40 year career in journalism:

  • Simpson became the first woman to broadcast radio news in Chicago in 1965
  • She was also the first African American woman to anchor a major television network evening newscast when she joined NBC Nightly News in 1970
  • Simpson was also the first woman or minority to be the sole moderator of a presidential debate in 1992.

Simpson ended her broadcast career in 2003 but continued to work for ABC as an ambassador, traveling on behalf of the network visiting schools to educate students on the changing media landscape. She officially retired in 2006.

Throughout her career she experienced, racism sexism; still she persevered and continued to excel.   In 2007, Simpson joined Emerson College, in Boston, MA as a journalism instructor and leader in residence.

Simpson married James Marshall in 1965.  They have one daughter, Dr. Mallika Joy Marshall and one son, Adam Marshall.


Moneta Sleet, Jr.: 1st African American To Win Pulitzer Prize For Journalism

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Moneta Sleet, Jr. (1926 – 1996) captured the images and experiences of the civil rights movement and the struggle for equality in the U.S. and Africa. Sleet is perhaps best known for his award winning photo taken at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of Coretta Scott King her daughter Bernice who was 5 years old at the time. He received the Pulitzer Prize in journalism for the photo.  He was the first African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for journalism.  Sleet first began photographing the civil rights movement when he traveled to Montgomery, AL in 1955 to cover the Montgomery Bus Boycott lead by Martin Luther King, Jr. As fate would have it, Sleet would cover both the “birth” of the civil rights movement, as well as the funeral of its leader, and everything in-between. Sleet was also known for his coverage of various independence ceremonies and celebrations in Africa.
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Delilah L. Beasley: Historian, Journalist, & Reporter

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Delilah L. Beasley


Delilah L. Beasley (1871 – 1934), was a black journalist, reporter, and historian. She was born in Cincinnati, OH. Her career in journalism began at the age of 12 when she began writing correspondence for the Cleveland Gazette. She then published her first column in the Sunday Cincinnati Enquirer three years later under the headline, “Mosaics”. Beasley published commentary on social activities within the black community for both the local black and white newspapers. When her parents died in the 1880’s she stopped reporting for a short time so that she could seek employment to support herself. She worked as a domestic, massage therapist, and trained as a hair dresser.

Beasley moved to Oakland, CA in 1910 where she worked as a nurse and domestic. She also became involved with the black women’s club network. In Oakland, she was able to resume her passion of reporting; writing columns on activities within the African American community for local newspapers. Beasley wrote for the white Oakland Tribune and the black Oakland Sunshine. Her column for the Oakland Tribune was called, “Activities Among Negroes”. Beasley’s influence as a journalist had a profound impact, not only on the black community, but also among white journalists as well. It was through her efforts that the white press stopped using words like, “darkie” and “nigger”. They also began to capitalize the “N” in Negro.

delilah beasley

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Freedom’s Journal: The 1st African American Owned & Operated Newspaper

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freedoms journal 

Freedom’s Journal was the first African American owned and operated newspaper in the United States. It was a 4 column publication that was printed, weekly on Fridays. The publication was started by John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish in 1827 in New York City. The paper featured foreign and domestic news, editorials, biographies, births, deaths and advertisements from the local community. The paper openly decried the ills of slavery, discrimination and other issues of concern within the African American community. The publication was strategic in its efforts to combat the negative stereotypes of blacks published in white-owned newspapers which openly supported slavery and mistreatment of blacks. 
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