Dorothy Butler Gilliam

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Dorothy Butler Gilliam (born November 24, 1936) is an American journalist who was the first African-American female reporter at The Washington Post.


Gilliam was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on November 24, 1936. She was the eighth child of Adee Conklin Butler and Jessie Mae Norment Butler.

She graduated cum laude from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She earned her master's degree at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Gilliam started her career at The Washington Post in October 1961 as a reporter on the City Desk. She was the first African-American female reporter to be hired by the newspaper. In 1979, she began writing a popular column for the Post, covering education, politics, and race; the column ran regularly in the Metro section for 19 years.

In addition to her career at The Washington Post, she has been an activist dedicated to public service, from her days helping to organize protests against the New York Daily News after it fired two-thirds of its African-American staff, to her tenure as president of the National Association of Black Journalists from 1993 to 1995.

Gilliam created the Young Journalists Development Program, which was designed to bring more young people into the journalism world, for The Washington Post in 1997. Post journalists work with students at local high schools, and in some cases, the Post prints the high-school newspapers for the schools.

In 2004, while she held the position of J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Fellow at The George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, Gilliam founded Prime Movers Media, the nation's first journalism mentorship program for underserved students at urban schools. The program sends veteran journalists and university interns to mentor high school student journalists in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.

The Washington Press Club awarded Gilliam its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.

Gilliam was married to Sam Gilliam, a well-known abstract artist. They divorced in the 1980s but have three daughters (Stephanie, Melissa, and Leah) and also have three grandchildren.


  • Gilliam, Dorothy Butler (2019). Trailblazer: a pioneering journalist's fight to make the media look more like America. Nashville: Center Street. ISBN 9781546076315.

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