|Name Ethel Payne|
|Born August 14, 1911 (1911-08-14) Chicago, Illinois|
Died May 28, 1991, Washington, D.C., United States
Education Medill School of Journalism
Journaliste Ethel L. Payne
Ethel L. Payne (August 14, 1911 – May 28, 1991) was an African-American journalist. Known as the "First Lady of the Black Press", she was a columnist, lecturer, and freelance writer. She combined advocacy with journalism as she reported on the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s, and was known for asking questions others dared not ask. She became the first female African-American commentator employed by a national network when CBS hired her in 1972. In addition to her reporting of American domestic politics, she also covered international stories.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, the granddaughter of slaves, Ethel Lois Payne yearned to be a writer at a time when few such opportunities existed for African-American women.
She began her journalism career rather unexpectedly while working as a hostess at an Army Special Services club in Japan, a position she had taken in 1948. She allowed a visiting reporter from the Chicago Defender to read her journal, which detailed her own experiences as well as those of African-American soldiers. Impressed, the reporter took the journal back to Chicago and soon Payne's observations were being used by the Defender, an African-American newspaper with a national readership, as the basis for front-page stories.
In the early 1950s, Payne moved back to Chicago to work full-time for the Defender. After working there for two years, she took over the paper's one-person bureau in Washington, D.C. In addition to national assignments, Payne was afforded the opportunity to cover stories overseas, becoming the first African-American woman to focus on international news coverage, and only one of three accredited African-Americans on the White House Press Corps.
During Payne's twenty-five year career with the Defender, she covered several key events in the Civil Rights Movement, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott and desegregation at the University of Alabama in 1956, as well as the 1963 March on Washington. She and the famous African American author Richard Wright attended the 1955 Bandung Conference, and Wright showcased some of his exchanges with her in his 1956 book The Color Curtain: A Report on the Bandung Conference.
Payne earned a reputation as an aggressive journalist who asked tough questions. She once asked President Dwight D. Eisenhower when he planned to ban segregation in interstate travel. The President's angry response that he refused to support special interests made headlines and helped push civil rights issues to the forefront of national debate.
In 1966, she traveled to Vietnam to cover African-American troops, who were involved in much of the fighting. She subsequently covered the Nigerian civil war and the International Women's Year Conference in Mexico City, and accompanied Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on a six-nation tour of Africa.
In 1972 she became the first African-American woman radio and television commentator on a national network, working on CBS's program Spectrum from 1972 to 1978, and after that with Matters of Opinion until 1982.
In 1978, Payne became an associate of the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press (WIFP). WIFP is an American nonprofit publishing organization. The organization works to increase communication between women and connect the public with forms of women-based media.
In an interview a few years prior to her death, Payne said, “I stick to my firm, unshakeable belief that the black press is an advocacy press, and that I, as a part of that press, can’t afford the luxury of being unbiased . . . when it come to issues that really affect my people, and I plead guilty, because I think that I am an instrument of change.” On May 28, 1991, at the age 79, Payne died of a heart attack at her home in Washington, D.C.
Ethel Payne was one of four journalists honored with a U.S postage stamp in a "Women in Journalism" set in 2002.
Prompted by her work in Africa as a foreign correspondent and to honour the name of a journalist who covered seven U.S. presidents and was a war correspondent, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) award "Ethel Payne Fellowships" to journalists interested in obtaining international reporting experience through assignments in Africa.
Several of Ethel Payne's belongings and awards are on view at the Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, D.C.