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Dorothy Butler Gilliam    

Journalist; First African-American Female Reporter at The Washington Post; Author of "Trailblazer: A Pioneering Journalist’s Fight to Make the Media Look More like America"

Dorothy Pearl Butler Gilliam is an American journalist who was the first African-American female reporter at The Washington Post.

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 briefly taught journalism at American University and Howard University.

Ms. Gilliam is a co‑founder, former chair, and current board member of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (MIJE), which has trained thousands of people of color as traditional and multimedia journalists and managers for print, television, and new media. She has taught in MIJE’s summer editing and reporting training programs and mentored many journalists over the years. She is a former president of the National Association of Black Journalists and of the Unity Journalists of Color. She was a leader of the first Unity Convention, held in Atlanta in 1994. An estimated eight thousand journalists of all races and ethnicities attended that groundbreaking conference.

In the past dozen years, Ms.Gilliam has become a national leader in creating pathways for underserved urban high school youth to consider media careers. In her final years at The Washington Post, she founded the Young Journalists Development Program and was most recently founder-director of the Prime Movers Media program at George Washington University. This program operated within the school systems of Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, sending professional journalists and interns from George Washington and Temple Universities into high schools to help students create or revitalize school media. It still operates in Philadelphia city schools. Through this position, Ms. Gilliam made many contacts throughout the nation in scholastic journalism at high schools, colleges, and universities.

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 is a well-known public speaker who has addressed groups in sizes up to several thousand. She was featured in a well-received 2005 documentary entitled “Freedom’s Call”, with photographer Ernest Withers, about their work together as civil rights journalists. She is also featured in two additional documentaries, “Southern Journalists Who Covered the Civil Rights Movement” and “Hope & Fury: MLK, The Movement and The Media.”

In 2019, Gilliam published "Trailblazer: a pioneering journalist's fight to make the media look more like America." In this compelling memoir, she recounts her trailblazing career during the turbulence of the Vietnam War, the civil rights and women’s movements, and Watergate, and looks beyond her personal journey to examine efforts to diversify the staffs of news organizations and other challenges currently facing the press.

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