In the 1950s and 1960s, pioneering journalist Ethel Lois Payne used her journalistic skills as the Washington correspondent for the Chicago Defender newspaper to elevate civil rights issues to the national agenda. At considerable personal risk, Payne covered such events as the Montgomery bus boycott, the desegregation of the University of Alabama, and the Little Rock school crisis. For many black Americans, she became their eyes on the frontlines of the struggle for equality.
James McGrath Morris's New York Times bestselling book Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, The First Lady of the Black Press was awarded the Benjamin Hooks National Book Prize for the best work in civil rights history. His biography, Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power was selected by the Wall Street Journal as one of the five best books on American moguls. His biography of Tony Hillerman will be published in the fall of 2021.