By Mellini Kantayya
Ethel Payne (1911-1991) was known in as “the first lady of the black press” and was described by journalist Gwen Ifil as “the most influential journalist and activist most people have never heard of.”
Payne began her career reporting for The Chicago Defender, an African-American newspaper where she was a member of the White House Press Corp and thorn in Eisenhower’s side. She had a reputation for taking the president to the mat by asking tough questions, thus shaping the national conversation on the Civil Rights Movement. In 1972 she was hired by CBS, making her the first African-American woman radio and television commentator on a national network. She remained at CBS until 1982.
Learn more about Ethel Payne on the PBS NewsHour website, or her biography Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press by James McGrath Morris.
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