“An educator in a system of oppression is either a revolutionary or an oppressor. ~ Lerone Bennett, Jr.
On February 14, 2018, Lerone Bennett, Jr. passed at age 89 at his home in Chicago, Illinois. Bennett was a journalist and social historian who focused on African-American life and racism in the United States. He is best known for the 1963 historical study, Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, 1619-1962, which examines the experiences of African Americans from their time in Africa to the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement. Other works by Bennett include What Manner of Man: A Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., Black Power U.S.A., and Pioneers in Protest. Bennett has also won several awards for his writings, such as the Carter G. Woodson’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (2003), Literature Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters (1978), and Book of the Year from the Capital Press Club (1963).
Bennett was born on October 17, 1928 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. As a teen, he worked for the black owned weekly newspapers the Jackson Advocate and the Mississippi Enterprise as a reporter. After graduating from the segregated high school in 1945, Bennett enrolled at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He paid for his tution by playing alto saxophone for local jazz bands. After graduating from college, Bennett began working as a journalist in Atlanta before relocating to Chicago in 1953 to work for Jet Magazine. The following year, he started working for Ebony Magazine, as an associate editor. Bennett quickly rose to the position of executive editor and remained with the magazine for over fifty years.