Sprigle graduated from Ohio State University. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Reporting in 1938 for a series of articles in the Post-Gazette proving that Hugo Black, newly appointed to the United States Supreme Court by Franklin Roosevelt, had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The evidence that Sprigle uncovered included, among other things, a photostatic copy of a letter from Black written on the stationery of the Alabama Klan asking to resign from the organization.
In May 1948, Sprigle, using the name "James Crawford", took a thirty-day, four-thousand-mile trip through the Deep South pretending to be black. He was supported in this investigation by the NAACP and accompanied by John Wesley Dobbs. He wrote a series of articles based on the journey, which appeared on the front page of the Post-Gazette under the title I Was a Negro in the South for 30 Days. According to the paper's publisher, the Post-Gazette had never run a series that received more attention. The articles formed the basis of Sprigle's 1949 book In the Land of Jim Crow. Sprigle's work predated the more famous John Howard Griffin's similar investigation, reported in Griffin's book Black Like Me, by over a decade.
Ray Sprigle (1949). In the Land of Jim Crow. New York: Simon & Schuster.
- Elizabeth A. Brennan and Elizabeth C. Clarage (1999). Who's Who of Pulitzer Prize Winners. Oryx Press. p. 560. ISBN 1-57356-111-8. Retrieved November 16, 2011.
- "The Pulitzer Prizes 1938 Winners". pulitzer.org. Retrieved August 28, 2011.
- Roberts, Gene and Hank Klibanoff (2006). The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-679-40381-7.
- "Life on the American Newsfront: Great Press Scoop puts New Deal on Spot". Life Magazine. September 27, 1937. Retrieved November 16, 2011.
- Rees, Richard. "Ray Sprigle, Pioneer". racetraitor.org. Noel Ignatiev. Retrieved 2017-06-20.
- Bill Steigerwald. "Sprigle's secret journey". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved November 16, 2011.
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