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In 1948 most white people in the North had no idea how unjust and unequal daily life was for the 10 million African Americans living in the South. But that suddenly changed after Ray Sprigle, a famous white journalist from Pittsburgh, went undercover and lived as a black man in the Jim Crow South.
Escorted through the South’s parallel black society by John Wesley Dobbs, a historic black civil rights pioneer from Atlanta, Sprigle met with sharecroppers, local black leaders, and families of lynching victims. He visited ramshackle black schools and slept at the homes of prosperous black farmers and doctors.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter’s series was syndicated coast to coast in white newspapers and carried into the South only by the Pittsburgh Courier, the country’s leading black paper. His vivid descriptions and undisguised outrage at "the iniquitous Jim Crow system" shocked the North, enraged the South, and ignited the first national debate in the media about ending America’s system of apartheid.
Six years before Brown v. Board of Education, seven years before the murder of Emmett Till, and thirteen years before John Howard Griffin’s similar experiment became the bestseller Black Like Me, Sprigle’s intrepid journalism blasted into the American consciousness the grim reality of black lives in the South.
Author Bill Steigerwald elevates Sprigle’s groundbreaking exposé to its rightful place among the seminal events of the early Civil Rights movement.
|Publisher:||Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
Bill Steigerwald’s thirty-six-year career as a journalist included stints with the Los Angeles Times, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. At the Trib he was an associate editor, feature writer, book page editor/writer, editorial writer, weekly op-ed columnist and weekly interviewer of important newsmakers. His work has appeared in dozens of major American papers and in magazines as disparate as Reason, Family Circle, Men’s Journal, and Penthouse. He lives just outside of Pittsburgh.
Table of Contents
Foreword Juan Williams ix
Chapter 1 Jim Crow, U.S.A 1
Chapter 2 Ray Sprigle, Star Reporter 15
Chapter 3 Pittsburgh in White and Black 33
Chapter 4 "Mr. NAACP" 53
Chapter 5 Learning to Become a Negro 64
Chapter 6 Teaming Up with Mr. Dobbs 75
Chapter 7 The Poor, Poor South 88
Chapter 8 Atlanta in Black and White 104
Chapter 9 On the Road to Americus 113
Chapter 10 An Oasis in the Desert of Injustice 129
Chapter 11 Sneaking Through the Delta 144
Chapter 12 America's "Last Outpost of Feudalism" 158
Chapter 13 The Long Reach of "White Malice" 169
Chapter 14 Nominating "President Dewey" 183
Chapter 15 Waking Up the White North 192
Chapter 16 A Civil War over Civil Rights 203
Chapter 17 Telling Sprigle's Story to Black America 215
Chapter 18 Sticking Up for Old Jim Crow 231
Chapter 19 Truman's November Surprise 247
Chapter 20 The Great Radio Debate 257
Chapter 21 A Mission Forgotten by History 271
About the Author 316
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This a fascinating book that was extremely well researched and written. I'm sorry to say that I was unfamiliar with Ray Sprigle prior to reading it. Prior to starting the book, I thought it would be more about the experiences of John Howard Griffin in Black Like Me. I was stunned to read that a journalist had actually gone undercover in the Jim Crow south many years earlier. The author introduces us to the time period by giving us a brief history of key figures of the time as well as the racial inequities that defined that period. He then traced Sprigle's travels and experiences, along with the societal impacts. This is a haunting book that reads as easily as a novel. It should be required reading in our schools and by anyone interested in, or participating in, political activism. By reading this, you will learn more about what true oppression is and in the many ways an entire group of people were persecuted for something as trivial as the color of their skin. I was stunned and humbled to read the lengths that one man went to to research the problems and then to try to effect change. Decades later, when this white woman was a child in the 60s, there was still tremendous racial strife, I can't even imagine how much worse it was during Sprigle's time. Again, because it cannot be said strongly enough, this should be required reading in our schools. This is a must read - if I could give it more than 5 stars, I would.