Evelyn Cunningham

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Evelyn Cunningham
Born(1916-01-25)January 25, 1916
DiedApril 28, 2010(2010-04-28) (aged 94)[1]
Manhattan, New York, United States
Other names"Big East"; "The Lynching Editor"
Known forCivil rights reporting

Evelyn Cunningham (January 25, 1916 – April 28, 2010) was an American journalist and aide to Nelson Rockefeller.[2] Cunningham covered the early civil rights movement and was a reporter and editor for the Pittsburgh Courier. She and the paper's staff were awarded the George Polk Award in 1998 for their coverage.[2]

Early life[edit]

Evelyn Cunningham was born Evelyn Elizabeth Long in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, one of two children of a taxicab driver and a dressmaker. The family moved to New York City when Evelyn was a child; she was educated in city schools and graduated from Hunter College High School in 1934 and from Long Island University in 1943, earning a bachelor's degree.[2]

Pittsburgh Courier[edit]

The largest black newsweekly at the time,[1] the Pittsburgh Courier was an influential presence during and in the years preceding the civil rights movement. Cunningham joined the Courier in 1940[3] working from the Harlem office at 125th street. She earned the nickname the "lynching editor" due to her extensive coverage of lynchings in the deep south.[2] While at the Courier she attempted to interview Bull Connor, in Birmingham, Alabama, but he denied her, with a racial epithet.[1][2]

She also met with a number of civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Cunningham wrote a three-part series on the King family from those meetings.

Work as political aide; later career[edit]

After leaving the Courier, in 1962, Cunningham hosted a radio show of her own on WLIB in New York. She then joined Nelson Rockefeller in 1965 as a special assistant to the then governor. She maintained this title in Washington during his vice presidency. She also served on Nixon's Task Force on Women's Rights and Responsibilities.[3]

In 1970, Cunningham was one of the founders of the New York Coalition of One Hundred Black Women, a non-profit organization dedicated to bettering the lives of black women "and their families through implementing initiatives and services to address important social, political, economical [and] cultural issues." [4]

In the 2000s, Cunningham was appointed to the New York City Commission on Women's Issues by Michael Bloomberg.

Personal life[edit]

Tall—almost six feet tall in heels—and with red hair, Cunningham was called "Big East," referring both to her height and her New York City background. A dedicated career woman who once expressed the opinion that "marriage isn't much good for a career woman",[5] nevertheless she married four times.[2] Her last marriage was to Austin H. Brown, who died in 2003. A Juilliard-trained pianist, he was also the first African-American master watchmaker in New York's Diamond District.[2]

She had one brother, Clyde Whitehurst Long, who died in 1973, leaving a daughter, whom Evelyn raised. She also had two step-daughters from Austin's previous marriage, which also gave her two grandchildren.


  1. ^ a b c d http://www.answers.com/topic/evelyn-cunningham
  2. ^ a b c d e f g The Associated Press, "Evelyn Cunningham, Journalist and Aide, Dies at 94", The New York Times, April 29, 2010, available online.
  3. ^ a b Clem Richardson, "Well-versed journalist Evelyn Cunningham writing piece on 'unknown black history'", New York Daily News, November 23, 2009.
  4. ^ "Evelyn Cunningham, National Visionary", National Visionary Leadership Project.
  5. ^ Joyce Wadler, "Public Lives: Still Fighting the Battle of the Sexes," New York Times, April 15, 1998.

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