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Trailblazer: A Pioneering Journalist's Fight to Make the Media Look More Like America

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Dorothy Butler Gilliam, whose 50-year-career as a journalist put her in the forefront of the fight for social justice, offers a comprehensive view of racial relations and the media in the U.S. Most civil rights victories are achieved behind the scenes, and this riveting, beautifully written memoir by a "black first" looks back with searing insight on the decades of struggl Dorothy Butler Gilliam, whose 50-year-career as a journalist put her in the forefront of the fight for social justice, offers a comprehensive view of racial relations and the media in the U.S. Most civil rights victories are achieved behind the scenes, and this riveting, beautifully written memoir by a "black first" looks back with searing insight on the decades of struggle, friendship, courage, humor and savvy that secured what seems commonplace today-people of color working in mainstream media. Told with a pioneering newspaper writer's charm and skill, Gilliam's full, fascinating life weaves her personal and professional experiences and media history into an engrossing tapestry. When we read about the death of her father and other formative events of her life, we glimpse the crippling impact of the segregated South before the civil rights movement when slavery's legacy still felt astonishingly close. We root for her as a wife, mother, and ambitious professional as she seizes once-in-a-lifetime opportunities never meant for a "dark-skinned woman" and builds a distinguished career. We gain a comprehensive view of how the media, especially newspapers, affected the movement for equal rights in this country. And in this humble, moving memoir, we see how an innovative and respected journalist and working mother helped provide opportunities for others. With the distinct voice of one who has worked for and witnessed immense progress and overcome heart-wrenching setbacks, this book covers a wide swath of media history -- from the era of game-changing Negro newspapers like the Chicago Defender to the civil rights movement, feminism, and our current imperfect diversity. This timely memoir, which reflects the tradition of boot-strapping African American storytelling from the South, is a smart, contemporary consideration of the media.


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Dorothy Butler Gilliam, whose 50-year-career as a journalist put her in the forefront of the fight for social justice, offers a comprehensive view of racial relations and the media in the U.S. Most civil rights victories are achieved behind the scenes, and this riveting, beautifully written memoir by a "black first" looks back with searing insight on the decades of struggl Dorothy Butler Gilliam, whose 50-year-career as a journalist put her in the forefront of the fight for social justice, offers a comprehensive view of racial relations and the media in the U.S. Most civil rights victories are achieved behind the scenes, and this riveting, beautifully written memoir by a "black first" looks back with searing insight on the decades of struggle, friendship, courage, humor and savvy that secured what seems commonplace today-people of color working in mainstream media. Told with a pioneering newspaper writer's charm and skill, Gilliam's full, fascinating life weaves her personal and professional experiences and media history into an engrossing tapestry. When we read about the death of her father and other formative events of her life, we glimpse the crippling impact of the segregated South before the civil rights movement when slavery's legacy still felt astonishingly close. We root for her as a wife, mother, and ambitious professional as she seizes once-in-a-lifetime opportunities never meant for a "dark-skinned woman" and builds a distinguished career. We gain a comprehensive view of how the media, especially newspapers, affected the movement for equal rights in this country. And in this humble, moving memoir, we see how an innovative and respected journalist and working mother helped provide opportunities for others. With the distinct voice of one who has worked for and witnessed immense progress and overcome heart-wrenching setbacks, this book covers a wide swath of media history -- from the era of game-changing Negro newspapers like the Chicago Defender to the civil rights movement, feminism, and our current imperfect diversity. This timely memoir, which reflects the tradition of boot-strapping African American storytelling from the South, is a smart, contemporary consideration of the media.

52 review for Trailblazer: A Pioneering Journalist's Fight to Make the Media Look More Like America

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    I am always surprised when I read about a "first" these days ... first black female neurosurgeon candidate was the most recent (never mind that we're so far from parity/equality that it's absurd that these things still happen). Dorothy Butler Gilliam was also a "first" - the first black female reporter at the Washington Post. Having come from covering the Little Rock Nine for one of the country's leading black newspapers, she brought with her a level of experience and talent that could not be ig I am always surprised when I read about a "first" these days ... first black female neurosurgeon candidate was the most recent (never mind that we're so far from parity/equality that it's absurd that these things still happen). Dorothy Butler Gilliam was also a "first" - the first black female reporter at the Washington Post. Having come from covering the Little Rock Nine for one of the country's leading black newspapers, she brought with her a level of experience and talent that could not be ignored by the managing editor. In her memoir, Gilliam describes her work in the civil rights movement, in working to make journalism a more welcoming place for people of color and thus increase its diversity, and her struggles to report on her culture in a way that gave enlightenment rather than reinforcing stereotypes. Given Gilliam's experience as a journalist, it is no surprise that the book is well-written, well-sourced, and intelligent. Gilliam's authorial voice is frank and direct. Getting a look into the newsroom, as well as life for people of color during both Jim Crow (Gilliam grew up in the segregated South) and the civil rights movement gives an immensely useful perspective. Highly recommended.

  2. 4 out of 5

    SundayAtDusk

    Growing up in the South during the Jim Crow era, certainly left Dorothy Butler Gilliam well aware of what it was like to be considered a second-class citizen. Her family, church and community, however, left her well aware that she was loved, was a valuable person, and could succeed in life. Add to that Mrs. Gilliam's burning ambition, and you have a woman who started knocking down barriers in the field of journalism, beginning in the 1960s. After getting a master's degree at Columbia University Growing up in the South during the Jim Crow era, certainly left Dorothy Butler Gilliam well aware of what it was like to be considered a second-class citizen. Her family, church and community, however, left her well aware that she was loved, was a valuable person, and could succeed in life. Add to that Mrs. Gilliam's burning ambition, and you have a woman who started knocking down barriers in the field of journalism, beginning in the 1960s. After getting a master's degree at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, she went to work at the Washington Post in 1961. As the first black female reporter hired by the paper, she would soon learn that some of her colleagues would totally snub her outside of the office. She also would soon notice that while blacks made up the majority of the population in Washington, D.C., no one would ever be able to tell that by the stories the Post was publishing. Mrs. Gilliam spent much, if not all, of her years at the paper trying to remedy that travesty, too. Eventually, she would get her own column, something that she very much wanted and valued. Dorothy Butler Gilliam gives credit where credit is due in this memoir. There is no shortage of naming names and honoring those who helped the newspaper world become more diversified, both in their employment practices and in the stories they ran. All those individual and events mentioned, however, sometimes gave the book more of a record feeling, as opposed to a memoir feeling. That in itself is not bad, except that those readers not in the field of journalism, may find it a bit too easy to start skimming over various parts of the story. Nevertheless, it's important to have a record of all that happened in the author's life. It's important to see that some individuals never stopped trying to obliterate all aspects of Jim Crow. (Note: I received a free ARC of this book from Amazon Vine.)

  3. 5 out of 5

    R.E. Conary

    Dorothy Butler Gilliam’s memoir is not a straightforward narrative. It wanders back and forth in time and space as each chapter recalls a compelling aspect of her life and the world around her. She writes a personal history of being black and a woman as both a reporter and as one affected by the attitudes and incidents of the times. Her stories can be sad, uplifting, harrowing and amusing. It’s a good look at how much things have changed, but at the same time makes one realize how tenuous and la Dorothy Butler Gilliam’s memoir is not a straightforward narrative. It wanders back and forth in time and space as each chapter recalls a compelling aspect of her life and the world around her. She writes a personal history of being black and a woman as both a reporter and as one affected by the attitudes and incidents of the times. Her stories can be sad, uplifting, harrowing and amusing. It’s a good look at how much things have changed, but at the same time makes one realize how tenuous and lasting change may be. I received an Advance Reader Copy of Trailblazer.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    Having witnessed the civil rights movement firsthand Dorothy Butler Gilliam's novel shows one woman's strength and perseverance during America's continued ethnocentrism is extremely informative. While I've seen 180-degree changes in numerous areas, I find the overall movement of racial inequality has been stymied by the current presidential administration and policies that have set the progress backward. Dorothy represents everything good in a human being in a time when the masses defended the " Having witnessed the civil rights movement firsthand Dorothy Butler Gilliam's novel shows one woman's strength and perseverance during America's continued ethnocentrism is extremely informative. While I've seen 180-degree changes in numerous areas, I find the overall movement of racial inequality has been stymied by the current presidential administration and policies that have set the progress backward. Dorothy represents everything good in a human being in a time when the masses defended the "status quo" When will America learn?.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Maxine

    Forging through the times Ms. Gilliam shares her experience as the first African American woman in the newspaper business at the Washington Post. She accurately overlays the many changes in the American society for African Americans. Ms. Gilliam acknowledges the many people who supported her during her career and offers other supports in her life which brought her peace and joy.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    Please see my review on Amazon. com under C. Wong. Thank you,

  7. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Another super important book about the work being done to improve diversity in journalism and the people we owe a debt of gratitude.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Madison Adams

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sandee

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jolie

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lisa of Hopewell

    I learned of this book via this blog post: https://cocoonofbooks.blogspot.com/20...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  14. 4 out of 5

    John Bohnert

  15. 5 out of 5

    MA

  16. 4 out of 5

    Emma

  17. 5 out of 5

    Shirley

  18. 4 out of 5

    Natasha Ajok

  19. 4 out of 5

    Christina Marroquin

  20. 4 out of 5

    Demia Watkins

  21. 5 out of 5

    Madelyne

  22. 5 out of 5

    Janday

  23. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

  24. 4 out of 5

    MM

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dani

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Davis

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

  28. 4 out of 5

    Debbra

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ameema Saeed

  30. 4 out of 5

    Noah

  31. 5 out of 5

    Jess Witkins

  32. 5 out of 5

    enoughtohold

  33. 4 out of 5

    Micielle

  34. 4 out of 5

    Fleet Sparrow

  35. 5 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  36. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  37. 5 out of 5

    J

  38. 5 out of 5

    Anna

  39. 4 out of 5

    Allie

  40. 4 out of 5

    Douglass Abramson

  41. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Heare Watts

  42. 5 out of 5

    Kim Ellis

  43. 4 out of 5

    Sam

  44. 5 out of 5

    ROY Law

  45. 5 out of 5

    Julie Oxendale

  46. 4 out of 5

    Margo

  47. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  48. 5 out of 5

    Trevor Soderstrum

  49. 5 out of 5

    Cathyann

  50. 5 out of 5

    Raymond Stone

  51. 5 out of 5

    Cathy Tilton

  52. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

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