Ray Sprigle was a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who went to great and dangerous lengths for his most notable story. On this day in 1948, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published Sprigle’s 30-day account of him living as a Black man and traveling across the Jim Crow south.
Sprigle first came to notoriety after winning the Pulitzer for his investigative reporting involving Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in 1938. Sprigle discovered in his findings that Black was once a member of the Ku Klux Klan, which forced Black to publicly denounce the hate group.
The undercover assignment involved Sprigle impersonating a light-skinned Black man by the name of Joseph Crawford. His impersonation was so sound that residents in the towns he visited were convinced of his portrayal. The aim of Sprigle’s assignment was to uncover the lives and trials faced by the 10 million Black people living in the Deep South and how the racist practices affected them.
The paper ran select chapters of Sprigle’s findings over the course of weeks, and the Gazette ran them again in full on the 50th anniversary of the initial running of the chapters.
In 1949, Sprigle compiled the standout moments of his investigation into a book, In The Land of Jim Crow, which scholars note predated John Howard Griffin’s similar book, Black Like Me.
PHOTO: Public Domain
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