Number of Pages:
Lyons PressAge Range:
About the Book
In 1948 most white people in the North had no idea how unjust and unequal daily life was for the 10 million African Americans living in the South. 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. Escorted through the South's parallel black society by John Wesley Dobbs, a historic black civil rights pioneer from Atlanta, Sprigle met with sharecroppers, local black leaders, and families of lynching victims. He visited ramshackle black schools and slept at the homes of prosperous black farmers and doctors. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter's series was syndicated coast to coast in white newspapers and carried into the South only by the Pittsburgh Courier, the country's leading black paper. His vivid descriptions and undisguised outrage at "the iniquitous Jim Crow system" shocked the North, enraged the South, and ignited the first national debate in the media about ending America's system of apartheid. Six years before Brown v. Board of Education, seven years before the murder of Emmett Till, and thirteen years before John Howard Griffin's similar experiment became the bestseller Black Like Me, Sprigle's intrepid journalism blasted into the American consciousness the grim reality of black lives in the South. Author Bill Steigerwald elevates Sprigle's groundbreaking exposé to its rightful place among the seminal events of the early Civil Rights movement.
A fascinating account of an anti-Jim Crow muckraking adventure...Sprigle's audacity was forgotten, but Steigerwald turns it into rollicking, haunting American history.--Kirkus
As a story from the Jim Crow past, Bill Steigerwald's recounting of Sprigle's mission . . . reminds us of what an honest conversation about race can accomplish as we continue on the path toward a more equitable future.--Juan Williams, political analyst and author of Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965
Bill Steigerwald is an author who always delights and informs, here recounting the frightening story of two courageous men, one black and the other a white Pittsburgh newspaper reporter posing as black, traveling through the Jim Crow South of 1948 to expose a vicious and brutal system of racial segregation.--David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize winner and best-selling author
Steigerwald sees Sprigle as an unlikely hero who delivered harsh truths to an audience that . . . might never have seen those stories given the era's segregated press... [I]t's a story worth discussing today.--Smithsonian Magazine
The courage displayed by Ray Sprigle and John Wesley Dobbs on their journey into the Deep South is one of the major feats of investigative journalism during the pre-Civil Rights era. Bill Steigerwald's book is an unflinching examination of race relations in this country's recent past and the true impact that uncompromising journalism can have on our world.--Jesse Holland, author of Black Men Built the Capitol and The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House
This is a vivid, well-researched account of a journalistic coup. White Ray Sprigle passing for black in the Jim Crow South--the danger, the narrow escapes, the abuses, the revelations. But it is also a set of portraits: of the brave black men who helped Sprigle fulfill his assignment; a portrait of the Deep South; and a portrait of the United States in the late 1940s.--Paul Theroux, travel writer, novelist, and author of Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads
About the Author
Bill Steigerwald's thirty-six-year career as a journalist included stints with the Los Angeles Times, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. At the Trib he was an associate editor, feature writer, book page editor/writer, editorial writer, weekly op-ed columnist and weekly interviewer of important newsmakers. His work has appeared in dozens of major American papers and in magazines as disparate as Reason, Family Circle, Men's Journal, and Penthouse. He lives just outside of Pittsburgh.