Celebrating Women – Dorothy Butler Gilliam


March is women’s history month and today we recognize a woman who helped break barriers in journalism.

Dorothy butler gilliam was the first african american female reporter at the washington post.  Her stories helped give a voice to communities that were often overlooked.  Her efforts have also helped pave the way for a countless number of younger journalists. 

 “As a first i had to open the doors for some others who would be following,” says Dorothy Gilliam

In 1961 dorothy butler gilliam became the first black female reporter for the washington post. At the time the paper was male dominated and– like the nation as a whole–mostly segregated.

Gilliam says, “I was born in tennessee and grew up in louisville kentucky so i was very familiar with the harshness of segregation”

As the 1960’s civil rights movement and women’s movement made headlines, gilliam’s articles were required reading. She covered historic events including the integration of central high school in little rock arkansas and the University of Mississippi.

“Few white reporters at that time were going into the black community to say what do you all think what are your opinions of what’s happening at Ole Miss” Gilliam adds.

In her memoir called ” trailblazer”, gilliam wrote of her experiences including her efforts to promote diversity in the newsroom. In addition to her work in journalism, gilliam also co-founded the maynard institute in Washington D.C. The organization works to improve media coverage by making sure newsrooms reflect the communities they serve. Gilliam says being the first wasn’t easy.  But after nearly 60 years in the news business, she says she is proud to see more females and journalists of color taking on tough assignments…From the city hall….to the white house press room…. 

Says gilliam, “I want to let them know their effort is appreciated.”

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