June 30, 2015 "First Lady of the Black Press" Is Subject of Book Discussion

Ethel Payne Was Important Figure in Civil Rights Era

Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
Public Contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221

Many people do not recognize the name Ethel Payne among the most important people in the civil rights movement. In his new biography, James McGrath Morris aims to change that.

Morris will discuss and sign “Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press” (HarperCollins, 2015) at noon on Tuesday, July 21, in the Mumford Room, located on the sixth floor of the James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. This Books & Beyond event is co-sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and the Library’s Manuscript Division. It is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

Payne was a journalist as a reporter for the Chicago Defender. In those pages, she continually urged President Dwight D. Eisenhower to support desegregation. She continued throughout her career to report on the struggles of the civil rights era, and her work is credited with persuading many African Americans to take up the cause.

President Lyndon B. Johnson acknowledged her contributions by presenting her with one of the pens he used to sign the Civil Rights Act. When she went to work for CBS in 1972, she became the first African American woman to be a commentator for a national network.

James McGrath Morris is an author, columnist and radio show host. He writes primarily biographies and works of narrative nonfiction. He is working on a new book, “The Ambulance Drivers: Hemingway and Dos Passos – Literary Lives in War and Peace,” that will be published by Da Capo Press in 2017. His other books include “Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print and Power,” “Jailhouse Journalism: The Fourth Estate Behind Bars” and (with Kevin Stillwell) “Revolution by Murder: Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman and the Plot to Kill Henry Clay Frick.”

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The Library’s Center for the Book, established by Congress in 1977 to “stimulate public interest in books and reading,” is a national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages through its affiliated state centers, collaborations with nonprofit reading promotion partners and through the Young Readers Center and the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress. For more information, visit read.gov.


PR 15-115
ISSN 0731-3527