My Black History: ‘Negro girls don’t work for newspapers’

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.

Women in Media
Lecturing “Women in Media” class at Savannah State University

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

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Author of the memoir "Coming Full Circle: From Jim Crow to Journalism." Available for book talks and signings, speaking. (Signed copies available on this site)

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