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Cover art for Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black PressEye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press by James McGrath Morris is the biography of a groundbreaking reporter who covered seminal events of the civil rights movement. Morris, a former journalist himself, writes about Payne’s work in journalism which forged a new path, as a woman and as an African American.   

 

Ethel Payne, born in 1911, was raised in Chicago’s West Englewood area—one of the few enclaves in Chicago which permitted  African-Americans to live outside the racially segregated “Black Belt” neighborhoods. By 30 years old, this granddaughter of slaves was reporting for one of the nation’s preeminent African American newspapers, the Chicago Defender. Her trajectory continued as Ms. Payne reported on civil rights issues domestically and abroad. She investigated the state of black soldiers stationed in Japan and interviewed Vietnam’s General Westmoreland about the treatment of black troops fighting in the war. As a member of the White House Press Corps, she won accolades from Clarence Mitchell after she questioned the Eisenhower administration about discriminatory practices. Payne was present for the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, rubbed elbows with presidents (even entertaining Richard and Patricia Nixon in her home), met with foreign leaders and traveled with Winston Churchill in Africa. Her efforts to end apartheid allowed her a private audience with Nelson and Winnie Mandela. Eye on the Struggle chronicles Payne’s illustrious career, made all the more remarkable by Payne’s unswerving approach of recording events both important to and from the perspective of black Americans. 


 
 

July 13, 2015 I am currently reading this book now. I hope the library will host a discussion about this remarkable woman.

Ms. Payne was a trailblazer in so many ways and her story is an incredible lesson in American history.Thank you for your suggestion that the library host a discussion. This would make a great choice for a book club discussion group.

I thrilled to see the interest in my book. And, even though I did speak in Baltimore earlier this year, I am always glad to join a discussion group by telephone, Skype, or Facetime.

@James McGrath Morris, we'd love to have you join in library discussion about this book. Please "stay tuned" as we work out the logistics on our end, perhaps for African American History month in February.



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Revised: February 1, 2017