LERONE BENNETT, JR.
Lerone Bennett, Jr. is the author of Before the Mayflower: A Histo¬ ry of the Negro in America, and other texts that highlight African- American history while weaving it into the story of American history.
He was bom in Clarksdale, Missis¬ sippi, and attended segregated schools in nearby Jackson, where he worked on his school newspa¬ per, developing an early passion for succinct, readable prose.
He edited the Mississippi Enterprise after graduation and went to More¬ house College, earning a B.A. in 1949. He started reporting for the Atlanta Daily World in the same year, graduating to city editor in 1952. He kept the position for a year before becoming associate editor for John Johnson’s Jet mag¬ azine (see no. 79).
Finding himself in the Johnson Publishing Company, one of the most influential black-owned busi¬ nesses of the 1950s, Bennett saw the opportunity to direct the opin¬ ions of a huge readership. When he took over the position of senior editor for the nine-year-old Ebony magazine in 1958, he was able to write and publish his own articles on the subject that interested him most—the history of black America.
By 1962, Bennett had developed not only a broad body of work that could stand as a major collection, but a style that was both readable and exciting. He used both to create the influential text Before the Mayflower.
Reprinted many times, this text stands as one of the finest cohesive histories in America. It was the first of many pieces that would earn Bennett a reputation among scholars and laymen alike. In 1964, The Negro Mood and Other Essays was pub¬ lished. What Manner of Man? (1964),
which tells the story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (see no. 91), Confrontation, Black and White (1965), Black Power, USA, The Human Side of Reconstruction 1867-1877 (1967), Pioneers in Protest (1968), The Challenge of Blackness (1972), The Shap¬ ing ofBlack America (1974), and Wade in the Water: Great Moments in Black History (1979) are all evidence of the illuminating quality of his work.
Continuing to communicate the complex and compelling story of African-American evolution, Bennett added an up-to-date per¬ spective to Before the Mayflower, and released a new edition in 1982, making it a contemporary favorite of researchers and students.