We Were All Pioneers: A Discussion with Simeon Booker

E. James West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Esteemed African American journalist, writer and activist Simeon Booker was born in Baltimore in 1918 and spent his formative years in Youngstown, Ohio. His professional journalism career is indelibly linked with Jet magazine and Johnson Publishing Company, where he served as the company’s Washington, DC, Bureau Chief for over half a century. Following his retirement in 2007, Simeon and his wife Carol collaborated to write his widely praised retrospective Shocking the Conscience, which was published in 2013.

Booker began his career in journalism by writing stories for the Youngstown Vindicator while still in high school. He went on to contribute to members of the Afro-American Newspapers chain as an English major at Virginia Union University. In 1950 he was awarded a prestigious Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University before becoming the first black staff reporter at the Washington Post. Booker left the Post in 1953 to join Johnson Publishing Company, publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines. His coverage of Emmett Till’s murder in 1955 and the subsequent trial of the men accused of his killing received national acclaim. Booker was one of a handful of journalists who accompanied activists from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) on the Freedom Rides of 1961. When the first bus was bombed outside of Anniston, AL, and riders on the second bus were beaten unconscious, Booker called Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to warn that without federal intervention the riders would never make it out of the South alive. He would go on to become one of the most influential black journalists of the twentieth century, covering every presidential election since the Eisenhower administration until his retirement in 2007
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-223
Number of pages10
JournalSouthern Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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