ASJA Announces Dorothy Butler Gilliam as Keynote Speaker

For Immediate Release

Dorothy Butler Gilliam Named Keynote Speaker at ASJA’s Upcoming Writers Conference in Washington, DC

“Journalism took me places that I would not normally go,” Gilliam says.

Dorothy Butler Gilliam, first black female reporter at The Washington Post and author of Trailblazer: A Pioneering Journalist’s Fight to Make the Media Look More like America, (January 2019) will kick off ASJA’s upcoming Writers Conference on November 8, 2019 at Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C. Her speech will draw from her career of more than five decades as a journalist, an advocate for women’s rights, a civil rights activist and author.

In addition to Gilliam, ASJA’s Writers Conference—dubbed A Capital Event—will feature writers and editors from D.C. and beyond, speaking about the craft of writing, the business of freelancing, and opportunities and resources for writers in the Nation’s Capital. The American Society of Journalists and Authors is a 1,200-member non-profit association that serves as a resource and voice for independent writers.

Milt Toby, ASJA President and award-winning author, believes Butler has an important message for writers at this juncture in history. “Butler’s reflection on the civil rights movement, journalism, diversity, and current attacks on the news media are too important to miss,” he says. “If you haven’t made plans to attend ASJA’s conference in D.C., now is the time.”

Gilliam joined the staff of The Washington Post in 1961 after working as a reporter in the segregated South. During a career spanning more than five decades, she has become a revered icon in American journalism, an advocate for women’s rights, a fervent civil rights activist and renowned author. “Journalism took me places that I would not normally go,” Gilliam says.

In January 2019, Gilliam released the publication of her memoir, Trailblazer: A Pioneering Journalist’s Fight to Make the Media Look More like America, providing first-hand accounts of her participation in the evolution of journalism, social and political discourse, and civil rights in America. Spurred by numerous public speaking and book-signing engagements and news media interviews, including a television appearance on The Daily show with Trevor Noah, Gilliam’s autobiography has become a hot- selling item. The book’s first printing nearly sold out within three months.

Gilliam began her journalism career as a reporter for the Memphis Tri-State Defender, a black-owned newspaper. There, she covered major civil rights events, including the Little Rock Nine, the federally enforced integration of Arkansas’ public schools. After joining The Post in 1961, Gilliam covered James Meredith’s integration of Ole Miss during a time when Mississippi was known in American black circles as “The Land of Black Death.” Skirting active Klu Klux Klan members, Gilliam literally “slept with the dead,” catching a few hours of nightly rest in a black funeral parlor, later filing her story entitled, “Mississippi Mood: Hope and Fear.”

Gilliam worked for The Post for more than 30 years, moving from reporter to editor, then to columnist covering politics, education and race relations. She also served as president of the National Association of Black Journalists and founding director of the Young Journalists Development Project, The Post’s long-term initiative to educate, cultivate and hire aspiring young minority journalists.

In the mid-60’s, Gilliam left The Post to devote more time to her children but kept her hand in journalism as a part-time reporter for WTTG TV’s Panorama program in Washington, D.C., and writing freelance magazine articles. She returned to The Post in 1972 as its Style section assistant editor, recasting the section from a mere lens into contemporary women’s fashion into a platform for wider discourse reflecting women’s interests and issues. She retired from newspaper in June 2003, then for worked for two years as Jet Magazine’s associate editor.

Gilliam earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., and her master’s degree at Columbia Journalism School. In 1979, she won Columbia’s Journalism Alumni of the Year Award. In 1991, she was honored as a fellow at the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia, where she studied racial diversity in American media. In 1996, she became a fellow at the Institute of Politics as the John F. Kennedy School of Government, at Harvard University.

Here ‘s what others have said about Gilliam and her latest work: 

Pulitzer Prize-Winning & Former Washington Post Reporter Carl Bernstein: “Dorothy’s inspirational life story is the journey of a daughter of the South who became a pioneering black woman journalist, an influential voice in the pages of The Washington Post, a national leader of the movement to foster diversity in the news media, and a dedicated mentor to countless aspiring young journalists. And, it [her latest book] is a welcome gift for colleagues and readers who have benefited from her work and presence in our lives.”

Former Washington Post Publisher Don Graham: Dorothy is a great reporter, a pioneer for all women in the news business, and African American women particularly. Her story is about a time in American journalism where courage and brilliance were called for in the white-male bastions that were American newsrooms. It’s (her latest book) a story that has been waiting a long time to be told.”

Gloria Steinem, Feminist, Writer, Editor, Lecturer and Co-Creator of New York and Ms. magazines: Dorothy Gilliam is that most rare of revolutionaries, one who not only climbs the barricades, but lets down a ladder to help others up, too.”


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