Ted Poston (left) in 1943 while working at the OWI
|Died||January 11, 1974 (aged 67)|
|Other names||Dean of Black Journalists|
Ted Poston (July 4, 1906 – January 11, 1974) was an American journalist and author. He was one of the first African-American journalists to work on a mainstream white-owned newspaper, the New York Post. Poston is often referred to as the "Dean of Black Journalists".
Poston was born as Theodore Roosevelt Augustus Major Poston in Hopkinsville, Kentucky to schoolteachers Ephraim and Mollie Poston. He had seven older brothers and sisters. His family was one of the few black families to own their own house in Hopkinsville. Poston's first experience in writing came in 1918 when his family founded a local newspaper, the Hopkinsville Contender. In 1928, he graduated from Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial College and moved to New York City.
Poston began his New York journalism career by writing for the New York Amsterdam News, a weekly newspaper geared to the city's African-American community. In 1935, he became the paper's editor, but was fired when he attempted to unionize the paper's reporting staff. The following year, he was hired by the New York Post as a freelance reporter. He was soon hired on as a staff reporter. As he was so prolific, the paper found it cheaper to pay him a salary. Poston was only the second black staff reporter ever hired at a mainstream paper and he experienced discrimination because of this. When he was assigned to the NYPD press room none of the other reporters would talk to him. Within the ranks of the Post, he was considered a star reporter and was a favorite of owner Dorothy Schiff. Over the years, Poston used his influence with Schiff to lobby for the hiring of more black and Puerto Rican reporters.
During his thirty-five year career at the Post, Poston covered many important stories of the day, such as Jackie Robinson's entrance into Major League Baseball, the Brown v. Board of Education case and the efforts of the Little Rock Nine to integrate schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. While covering the story of the Little Rock Nine in 1959, Poston was shot at by a group of white men. He also covered the Scottsboro Boys trials with much difficulty as the Alabama authorities would not allow a black journalist to report in the segregated South. He had to resort to disguising himself as a preacher and turning his stories in secretly with the help of white colleagues. In 1949, he was pursued by white mobs when he attempted to cover the Groveland Four in Lake County, Florida. He safely escaped and wrote a series on the Groveland Case.
During World War II, Poston temporarily left New York to work for the Office of War Information in Washington D.C. There he served as "Negro liaison" for the Office and was a part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's Black Cabinet. After Roosevelt's death, Poston joined other black journalists in pressuring Truman to desegregate the military.
Poston retired from the Post in 1972 to work on a collection of autobiographical short stories. He was unable to complete the work as he suffered from complications from arteriosclerosis. He died on January 11, 1974, at his home in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
Poston was one of the first journalists inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame when it opened in 1990. In 1999, his series on the Groveland Case was named one the 100 most important journalistic works of the 20th century by New York University's School of Journalism. His book of short stories was published posthumously in 1991 as The Dark Side of Hopkinsville.
Poston was married three times. His first wife was Miriam Rivers (m. 1935–1940). In 1941, while working in Washington he married Marie Byrd Tancil, a staffer for Robert C. Weaver. The couple divorced in 1956. Poston married Ersa Hines Clinton in 1957. She worked for New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. They remained married until Poston's death in 1974, although they were separated at the time. Poston was friends with Langston Hughes and traveled to the Soviet Union with him in 1932 to appear in an anti-segregation film. He also lived next door to his friend Thurgood Marshall for many years.
Awards and honors
- 1949 George Polk Award for National Reporting
- 1949 Heywood Broun Award
- 1972 Black Perspective award for Pioneering Journalists
- 1990 National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame inductee
- Gates Jr., Henry Louis (2009). Harlem Renaissance Lives. Oxford University Press. pp. 400–2. ISBN 0195387953.
- Nissenson, Marilyn (2012). The Lady Upstairs: Dorothy Schiff and the New York Post. St. Martin's Press. pp. 121–3. ISBN 1466857501.
- Fraser, C. Gerald (January 13, 1974). "Ted Poston, Veteran Reporter, Dies". New York Times.
- Hauke, Kathleen (1998). Ted Poston: Pioneer American Journalist. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 9780820320205.
- Lochte, Kate (February 18, 2015). "'Ted Talk' on Hopkinsville Journalist Rescheduled to March". WKMS-FM.