Lerone Bennett, Jr.
National Visionary

Born October 17, 1928 in Clarksdale, Mississippi

Executive Editor Emeritus of Ebony Magazine

Lerone Bennett has spent over 50 years telling the untold history of African Americans.  As a journalist and author, he has used his talents to help combat racism and explore race relations and the history of the black experience in the United States. 

Bennett (right) in Paris during the
Korean War.
Born on October 17, 1928 in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Bennett grew up in Jackson, where   his passion for history and the written word first emerged.  He viewed these pursuits as a way to understand and overcome the violence and oppression of the segregated world in which he lived.  The world of journalism also attracted Bennett at an early age.  Growing up, he worked as a newsboy and gofer for journalists at two local black newspapers.  Inspired by the strong male role models in Jackson, he enrolled in Moorehouse College and in 1949 he earned a Bachelor's degree in journalism. 

Bennett stayed in Atlanta and later that year began working as a journalist for the Atlanta Daily World.  In 1953 he became an associate editor at Jet magazine.  A year later Ebony magazine, the oldest and largest African American owned publication, hired Bennett as an associate editor.  He was promoted to senior editor in 1958, and eventually, executive editor. 

Bennett has also become a well-respected book author, having published ten historical books in his career.  His first work, Before the Mayflower: A History of the Negro in America developed from of a series of articles originally written for Ebony magazine.  This classic has become one of the best selling books of African American history.  In 2000, he caused a stir with Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln's White Dream, in which he presents evidence that Lincoln was a white supremacist, who was forced to sign the emancipation proclamation. 

Bennett has won numerous awards for his work, including Literature Award of the Academy of Arts and Letters, the Book of the Year Award from Capital Press Club, the Patron Saints Award from the Society of Midland Authors, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Black Journalists. 

Bennett originally planned to leave the world of magazine journalism when he turned 75 in the fall of 2004, but the was persuaded not to retire from his position at Ebony.  However, he still has plans to author five more books before he turns 80 years old. 

Bennett and his wife Gloria have four children.  His daughter, Joy Bennet Kinnon, is a senior editor at Ebony.


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