Today and throughout February, I am posting brief excerpts from my upcoming memoir, “Coming Full Circle — From Jim Crow to Journalism.”
I remember the day I told my family I wanted to become a journalist. I was in the 11th grade, living in a city not necessarily known for outstanding accomplishments in journalism at the time — in the mid 1960s. As an African American growing up in the segregated South, I don’t recall the name of a single woman who worked for our local daily newspapers or television stations.
One may assume women were working behind the scenes, but none, as I recall had bylines or on-air television news presence in Savannah. I’m sure there were no African Americans until my friend, Harold Jackson, a student at Savannah State College, landed an internship at the Savannah Morning News and later became the newspaper’s first full-time African American reporter.
So there I was, standing in the family kitchen announcing to my grandmother and anybody else who would listen that I wanted to work for a daily newspaper. My grandmother, a professional woman who ran her own business, asked me how I thought I would accomplish this goal, because, she said, “Negro girls don’t work for newspapers.”
Good point, but I was either too naive or too obstinate to think I could not overcome those odds.
My grandmother’s advice was this.
“Just take some education classes so you’ll have something to fall back on. Then you can always get a job as a teacher,” like the noble career of other women in our family.
I rejected my grandmother’s suggestion. I was determined to head down a different path. My path took me to newspaper journalism, but with a few detours as an educator along the way. In the long run, I guess my grandmother knew best.
Next: An opportunity to do some good