30 days a black man
30 Days a Black Man: The Forgotten Story That Exposed the Jim Crow South by Bill SteigerwaldThe dangerous, trailblazing work of a white journalist and black leader who struck a shocking early blow against legal segregation In 1948, most white people in the North had no idea how unjust and unequal daily life was for 10 million African Americans living in the Jim Crow South. Then, Ray Sprigle, a famous white journalist from Pittsburgh, went undercover and alongside Atlanta s black civil rights pioneer Wesley Dobbs lived as a black man in the South for thirty days. His impassioned newspaper series shocked millions and sparked the first nationally aired television-and-radio debate about ending America s shameful system of apartheid. Author Bill Steigerwald returns this long-forgotten part of American history to its rightful place among the seminal events of the Civil Rights movement. For 30 days and 3,000 miles, Sprigle and Dobbs traveled among dirt-poor sharecroppers, principals of ramshackle black schools, and families of lynching victims. The nationally syndicated newspaper series hit the media like an atom bomb, eliciting a fierce response from the Southern media. Six years before Brown v. Board of Education, seven years before the murder of Emmett Till, eight years before Little Rock s Central High School was integrated, and thirteen years before John Howard Griffin s similar experiment became the bestselling Black Like Me, an unlikely pair of heroes brought black lives to the forefront of American consciousness.
30 days a black man slideshow
This white reporter from Pittsburgh dressed like a black man for 30 days to expose Southern racism
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In , a white, Pittsburgh-based journalist named Ray Sprigle laid out in the punishing Florida sunshine far longer than is advisable, and got himself a screaming sunburn. He did it on purpose. The burn was painful, and his skin came off in sheets. But a couple days later the redness yielded to a deep, dark tan. With his new coloring, thick-framed black glasses, and a freshly Bic-ed head, Sprigle traveled to the Deep South to pretend to be black for a month. A veteran newsman, Sprigle enjoyed donning disguises and disrupting the status quo.
Listen Listening In , he won the Pulitzer Prize for his articles proving that newly appointed U. But Sprigle was probably most celebrated for his undercover work: posing as a coal miner to expose working conditions underground, or feigning mental illness to gain covert access to a mental hospital. The book, just out in paperback, tells how in , Sprigle, who was white, posed as African-American to investigate conditions in the Jim Crow South. Sprigle, who was 61, managed his unlikely imposture with help from two prominent African Americans. How did Sprigle disguise himself? Perhaps most importantly, in the South, anyone who presented as black was taken as such.
In he wrote and published Dogging Steinbeck , which exposed the many fictions and fibs John Steinbeck put into Travels With Charley. 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. He visited ramshackle black schools and slept at the homes of prosperous black farmers and doctors. T he two black men racing past the cotton fields in their Mercury were up to no good. No one white knew who they were or why they were in Mississippi, and they had to work extra hard to hide their sophistication and curiosity. The night before they drove into the Delta, friends in Jackson had briefed them on tactics, strategy, and proper behavior, as if they were a pair of elderly saboteurs about to be dropped into Nazi-occupied France.