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Lerone Bennett, Prominent Ebony Journalist and Author, Passes

Feb 15 2018

African American historian and King Papers Project advisory board member Lerone Bennett, Jr. died this past weekend after struggling with vascular dementia. He was 89 years old.

The author of Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America and The Shaping of Black America, Bennett enjoyed a long career as a writer, spanning nearly half a century at Ebony magazine.

Bennett’s career in journalism began early with his work at Lanier High School newspaper in Jackson, Mississippi. Later, Bennett worked for the Morehouse College newspaper. Here he would meet Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life he would later chronicle in What Manner of Man, a Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., (1964).

After stints at the Atlanta Daily World and Jet magazine, Bennett was an early and instrumental figure in developing the voice for Ebony magazine.

At the magazine, Bennett took on a key role communicating the progress of African Americans amid the Civil Rights Movement. Remembering his piece on the March on Washington, Bennett said, “‘The hustler from Harlem, the intellectual from Harlem, the money man from Chicago, for one moment in time, for one moment in time, they were one,’ that was an attempt to capture that, the joy of a great triumph.”

Bennett’s distinction as a journalist lead to opportunities in intellectual leadership. Faced with student demands to advance its African American History program, Northwestern University brought the acclaimed Ebony writer on as a visiting professor. His influence and legacy as a writer and scholar are further attested by his tenure on President Clinton’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, his advisee role with the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and his recognition as a “foot soldier” for the civil rights movement at Atlanta’s International Civil Rights Walk of Fame.

His wife Gloria passed in 2009. He is survived by three children.

For more on Bennett’s life, see

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