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Titles similar to Eye on the Struggle
Morris (Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power, 2010) is the first to tell barrier-breaking journalist Ethel Payne’s (1911–91) complete story in Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press. Among this biography’s many disclosures is the crucial role this book-loving daughter of a Pullman porter—and constant patron of her South Side Chicago public library branch—played in the success of the Chicago Defender, a tremendously influential African American newspaper distributed in the Jim Crow South by Pullman porters.
Harassed on her way to high school when she passed through a white neighborhood, Payne was encouraged to write by her English teacher, who had also taught Ernest Hemingway. Payne had stories published in a Defender spinoff, Abbott’s Monthly, while she attended the Chicago Public Library Training School and became a junior library assistant. After qualifying for a government-documents librarian post at the U.S. Department of Justice, she was turned away because of her race. In a neat turnaround, Payne signed on as an assistant service club director, shipping out to an army post in Japan in 1948. There, intrepid, ever-curious, and truth-seeking, Payne investigated the plight of the stigmatized children of black GIs and Japanese women. She lost her military job when the Chicago Defender published her exposé but was hired by the paper.
Thanks to Alice Dunnigan’s mentoring, Payne established a presence in Washington, D.C., quickly ascending as “the Defender’s unquestioned star political reporter . . . and civil rights authority,” until the paper abruptly closed its Washington office in 1958. After stints with the AFL-CIO and the Democratic National Committee, Payne returned to journalism as the first African American correspondent covering the Vietnam War and the first African American reporter invited to China. Morris’ straight-ahead chronicle of Payne’s extraordinary front-line life reveals how invincible and incisive she was as she forthrightly “combined journalism with advocacy” and made the most of the “box seat on history” she fought so ardently and courageously to occupy.
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