Little Known Black History Fact: William Raspberry

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  • William Raspberry was a Pulitzer-Prize winning Washington Post journalist for over 40 years. Among the first black journalists to receive a nationally syndicated column, Raspberry was called a man who, “had a way of telling you to go to hell and making you look forward to the trip.” He told the many stories of civil rights from a middle-journalist perspective and not just as an angry black man, as many would assume he represented.

    In 1994, Raspberry became the second black journalist to win the Pulitzer Prize for journalism.

    Raspberry was from a northeastern part of Mississippi and he and his four siblings were born to a family of teachers. As Raspberry’s topics included international crises like the genocide in Somalia and Mogadishu, he equates his upbringing in Mississippi to “Apartheid.” Raspberry believed that his advantage as a public national journalist over the white commentators before him was that he had more practice at being black.  

    In 1965, Raspberry covered the Watts Riots in Los Angeles, CA. He had been with the Post for only a few years and only one year after his L.A. coverage, he was made a full-time columnist. He went on to cover the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from a street perspective and the nation's view of the ideals from Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. His readers were of varying viewpoints and those who would’ve preferred the general perspective on black progression and issues often challenged his commentary.

    A constant teacher and student of life and journalism, Raspberry received 15 Honorary Degrees and taught journalism at Duke University for over a decade. After he retired, he used his own funding to build the Baby Steps organization for low-income parents and children.

    William Raspberry passed away July 17, 2012 from prostate cancer in Washington, DC. He was 76 years old.
     

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