Trailblazer
Dorothy Butler Gilliam, whose 50-year-career as a journalist put her in the forefront of the fight for social justice, offers a comprehensive view of racial relations and the media in the U.S. Most civil rights victories are achieved behind the scenes, and this riveting, beautifully written memoir by a "black first" looks back with searing insight on the decades of struggle, friendship, courage, humor and savvy that secured what seems commonplace today-people of color working in mainstream media.Told with a pioneering newspaper writer's charm and skill, Gilliam's full, fascinating life weaves her personal and professional experiences and media history into an engrossing tapestry. When we read about the death of her father and other formative events of her life, we glimpse the crippling impact of the segregated South before the civil rights movement when slavery's legacy still felt astonishingly close. We root for her as a wife, mother, and ambitious professional as she seizes once-in-a-lifetime opportunities never meant for a "dark-skinned woman" and builds a distinguished career. We gain a comprehensive view of how the media, especially newspapers, affected the movement for equal rights in this country. And in this humble, moving memoir, we see how an innovative and respected journalist and working mother helped provide opportunities for others.With the distinct voice of one who has worked for and witnessed immense progress and overcome heart-wrenching setbacks, this book covers a wide swath of media history -- from the era of game-changing Negro newspapers like the Chicago Defender to the civil rights movement, feminism, and our current imperfect diversity. This timely memoir, which reflects the tradition of boot-strapping African American storytelling from the South, is a smart, contemporary consideration of the media.

Trailblazer Details

TitleTrailblazer
Author
ReleaseJan 8th, 2019
PublisherCenter Street
ISBN-139781546083443
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, History, Feminism, Writing, Journalism, Biography

Trailblazer Review

  • Sharon
    January 1, 1970
    I am always surprised when I read about a "first" these days ... first black female neurosurgeon candidate was the most recent (never mind that we're so far from parity/equality that it's absurd that these things still happen). Dorothy Butler Gilliam was also a "first" - the first black female reporter at the Washington Post. Having come from covering the Little Rock Nine for one of the country's leading black newspapers, she brought with her a level of experience and talent that could not be ig I am always surprised when I read about a "first" these days ... first black female neurosurgeon candidate was the most recent (never mind that we're so far from parity/equality that it's absurd that these things still happen). Dorothy Butler Gilliam was also a "first" - the first black female reporter at the Washington Post. Having come from covering the Little Rock Nine for one of the country's leading black newspapers, she brought with her a level of experience and talent that could not be ignored by the managing editor.In her memoir, Gilliam describes her work in the civil rights movement, in working to make journalism a more welcoming place for people of color and thus increase its diversity, and her struggles to report on her culture in a way that gave enlightenment rather than reinforcing stereotypes.Given Gilliam's experience as a journalist, it is no surprise that the book is well-written, well-sourced, and intelligent. Gilliam's authorial voice is frank and direct. Getting a look into the newsroom, as well as life for people of color during both Jim Crow (Gilliam grew up in the segregated South) and the civil rights movement gives an immensely useful perspective.Highly recommended.
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  • Corrie
    January 1, 1970
    There are some really interesting moments here, but the delivery was too "oral history" for my attention span's literary snobbery. There were also name dropping sections and repetitive sections I skipped over.
  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    This book is the story of the first black woman to work as a journalist at the Washington Post. And what a story it is--the first section of the book is riveting, 5-star stuff, as Gilliam recounts her early days at the Post and her experiences reporting on the civil rights movement. Her experience in the segregated south at a time of such intense tension is harrowing, and both the atrocities and bravery she witnessed make for a very engaging story. After such a strong beginning, the rest of the This book is the story of the first black woman to work as a journalist at the Washington Post. And what a story it is--the first section of the book is riveting, 5-star stuff, as Gilliam recounts her early days at the Post and her experiences reporting on the civil rights movement. Her experience in the segregated south at a time of such intense tension is harrowing, and both the atrocities and bravery she witnessed make for a very engaging story. After such a strong beginning, the rest of the book is less exciting, and near the end it becomes rather dry, but Gilliam's story is important, and the lens she brings to all aspects of her life, as a black woman trying to increase opportunities for her community makes this a really engaging memoir. She has seen so much during her life--all the way from segregation to the election of the first black president. Would recommend! Also, the author's interview on the Daily Show is great:http://www.cc.com/video-clips/1zfb36/...
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  • Scott
    January 1, 1970
    Another super important book about the work being done to improve diversity in journalism and the people we owe a debt of gratitude.
  • Marilyn Shea
    January 1, 1970
    The author, Dorothy Butler Gilliam, tells the story of her career as a black female journalist at a time when there were few women journalists and really no black females in the field. She seemed to know even as a teenager what she wanted to do and despite the many barriers to her in performing her job, she was tenacious and focused and ultimately succeeded in making a path for other people of color to follow. She must have an eidetic memory or at least have kept copious notes throughout her car The author, Dorothy Butler Gilliam, tells the story of her career as a black female journalist at a time when there were few women journalists and really no black females in the field. She seemed to know even as a teenager what she wanted to do and despite the many barriers to her in performing her job, she was tenacious and focused and ultimately succeeded in making a path for other people of color to follow. She must have an eidetic memory or at least have kept copious notes throughout her career because every paragraph has an almost exhausting amount of detail. When she names a person, she gives an account of the person's past accomplishments, friends, family and associations with organizations. It is a bit overwhelming, but she seems to want to give the reader the sense that her success is founded upon the progress that her predecessors made, and she did not just appear out of nowhere but rather was the beneficiary of a rich, established tradition of scholarship and activism in the black community. This book includes "A Black Press Time Line and Current Aftican American Newspapers" beginning in 1827.
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  • Sugarpuss
    January 1, 1970
    WOW! What a life Ms Gilliam has lead. The descriptions of her early days on the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement are gripping. Imagine, three weeks into a new job & you are thrusted into one of the most memorable events in our history. The courage it took to go to Little Rock after seeing your boss being beaten on national television is just jaw-dropping. Wow.However.... The book does slow down once Ms Gilliam goes into her years as a Style editor for The Washington Post. (It's not her WOW! What a life Ms Gilliam has lead. The descriptions of her early days on the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement are gripping. Imagine, three weeks into a new job & you are thrusted into one of the most memorable events in our history. The courage it took to go to Little Rock after seeing your boss being beaten on national television is just jaw-dropping. Wow.However.... The book does slow down once Ms Gilliam goes into her years as a Style editor for The Washington Post. (It's not her fault though. Interviewing Sammy Davis Jr isn't nearly as compelling as covering James Meredith's integration of Ole Miss.) And do keep in mind, the book does not tell Ms Gilliam's story in a straight line. It will jump around from time to time, but you can tell she was a journalist when you are reading this. She is concise yet descriptive, and I appreciate her succinct & to the point style of writing. I also appreciate all she has tried to do to make journalism a better place for those who are not white males. Kudos.
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  • Madlyn
    January 1, 1970
    Dorothy Butler Gilliam’s book was captivating to me as I kept reading about all of her life struggles with her job, husband,and peers at the workplace and not to mention how she faced them head on. And I was excited to learn about her accomplishments in helping change the mindset through her writing about the civil rights movement, feminism, and a flawed diversity in the workplace. Learning about how passionate Ms. Gilliam was about her work as a journalist gave me PAUSE thinking about that era Dorothy Butler Gilliam’s book was captivating to me as I kept reading about all of her life struggles with her job, husband,and peers at the workplace and not to mention how she faced them head on. And I was excited to learn about her accomplishments in helping change the mindset through her writing about the civil rights movement, feminism, and a flawed diversity in the workplace. Learning about how passionate Ms. Gilliam was about her work as a journalist gave me PAUSE thinking about that era during the civil rights movement and the Jim Crow stigma. I never would have thought a black journalist would be faced with the same obstacles as other black skilled occupations. And I’m not sure why I that thought had even crossed my mind, because if you were colored you were going to be treated as such. Again, it was an joy reading her book and was very hard for me to put it down.
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  • Cat
    January 1, 1970
    I was really excited to read this because the description sounded interesting and I was intrigued by Ms. Gilliam's life, but I had a tough time finishing this book. She told some good stories in the beginning of the book, but she started losing me in the middle with her story telling style. It felt like she was jumping back and forth in time and telling the same story multiple times from different angles. There were a lot of sections where she seemed to be doing name dropping that didn't feel re I was really excited to read this because the description sounded interesting and I was intrigued by Ms. Gilliam's life, but I had a tough time finishing this book. She told some good stories in the beginning of the book, but she started losing me in the middle with her story telling style. It felt like she was jumping back and forth in time and telling the same story multiple times from different angles. There were a lot of sections where she seemed to be doing name dropping that didn't feel relevant. In the end, I seemed to spend more time seeing how many pages were left, which was disappointing since there were some sections where she had some great stories and insight on society.
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  • Ruby
    January 1, 1970
    "As an accomplished woman with a graduate degree to face such daily slights, I felt not only pained but "less than," "inferior," "not good enough"-not for what I did or did not do, but simply because of who I was.""Controlling my temper, I made a mental note that I would someday find a way to fight against such arrogance, ignorance, and white supremacy.""Most of my classmates were products of Western society and Western triumphalism, were studying at the best school of journalism in America to p "As an accomplished woman with a graduate degree to face such daily slights, I felt not only pained but "less than," "inferior," "not good enough"-not for what I did or did not do, but simply because of who I was.""Controlling my temper, I made a mental note that I would someday find a way to fight against such arrogance, ignorance, and white supremacy.""Most of my classmates were products of Western society and Western triumphalism, were studying at the best school of journalism in America to prepare for an occupation where they hoped to wield the power of the pen to influence people and events at home and abroad.""Black journalists shared all the problems of white reporters-as a largely Northern antagonistic press confronting fiercely hostile white populations-but in addition, we faced the actual circumstances of segregation: we could not check into a hotel, eat in restaurants, use public restrooms, or drink from water fountains as the white journalists did.""And, was the norm for white faces on TV cameras, no one has ever been arrested or charged for the beatings that resulted in Mr. Wilson's death.""As most educated black Americans of my generation were, I was raised bicultural. I had been steeped in Western thought and tradition and read some of the same books in school as my white classmates had.""Blacks had to know about white culture, but whites did not need to know about black culture.""As the daughter of an educated mother forced by segregation to work as a maid and of a college-educated father, I had seen notions of white superiority debunked by my parents' example, but the South's gender bias was not discussed.""Part of my journey was to learn to be happy, whatever my circumstances.""Southern whites often had a veneer of courtesy and were not unkind to Blacks in daily interaction, as long as the whites retained a position of authority. They wanted us to stay in our place but, like Byrd, would help us in small ways so they could have a good conscience, while maintaining their power and superiority.""While media has a powerful influence on the national mood, it also reflects it.""My parents, community, church, black history professors like Lincoln University's Dr. Lorenzo Green, and the ancestors had put too much into me for me to adapt my views to fit the changing tide."
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  • Meghna
    January 1, 1970
    Very intriguing story. Drags a little in the middle but well worth the read
  • Sheilah Smith
    January 1, 1970
    I found Dorothy Butler Gilliam’s memoir Trailblazer to be a great read! It was another read that informed me what it is like to be the first and black in a career pre and post civil rights in this country. As was the case with Ms. Gilliam being the first back female reporter at the Washington Post. Being a Southerner I am familiar with so much that occurred that paved the way for people of color to walk through previously closed doors so I really appreciate having a close and historical account I found Dorothy Butler Gilliam’s memoir Trailblazer to be a great read! It was another read that informed me what it is like to be the first and black in a career pre and post civil rights in this country. As was the case with Ms. Gilliam being the first back female reporter at the Washington Post. Being a Southerner I am familiar with so much that occurred that paved the way for people of color to walk through previously closed doors so I really appreciate having a close and historical account of what it actually cost a person to succeed and survive during those difficult times!I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Ms. Gilliam family of origin, environment, and the supportive community (i.e., neighbors, teachers, church) because it confirmed to me how we as a people made it over and how she made it over. I ended this read feeling like I not only learned about Ms. Gilliam’s experiences before and after as the first Black female reporter at the “Post” and all that entailed, but I learned so much about an incredible woman! A woman who persevered as a human being (i.e, self-esteem, food & health issues), employee, wife, and mother admidst the dogged elements of segregation and sexism. I too like the fact Ms. Gilliam maintained her passion and advocacy by being integrally involved then and now to bring various people of color into the many facets of journalism. She didn’t lose her true authentic self and she fought and continually fights so people of color stories will be represented accurately, objectively and professionally. “Trailblazer” is loaded with familiar and unfamiliar notorieties, and saturated with historicity, but I wanted to press through because I hope to have perceived what Ms. Gilliam is trying to convey to her readers. And perhaps that is, “It really does take a village before and after to bring about change and progress for the future!” An amazing take away for me from “Trailblazer” was a love of self, family, a people, and faith. A worthwhile read!
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  • SundayAtDusk
    January 1, 1970
    Growing up in the South during the Jim Crow era, certainly left Dorothy Butler Gilliam well aware of what it was like to be considered a second-class citizen. Her family, church and community, however, left her well aware that she was loved, was a valuable person, and could succeed in life. Add to that Mrs. Gilliam's burning ambition, and you have a woman who started knocking down barriers in the field of journalism, beginning in the 1960s. After getting a master's degree at Columbia University Growing up in the South during the Jim Crow era, certainly left Dorothy Butler Gilliam well aware of what it was like to be considered a second-class citizen. Her family, church and community, however, left her well aware that she was loved, was a valuable person, and could succeed in life. Add to that Mrs. Gilliam's burning ambition, and you have a woman who started knocking down barriers in the field of journalism, beginning in the 1960s. After getting a master's degree at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, she went to work at the Washington Post in 1961. As the first black female reporter hired by the paper, she would soon learn that some of her colleagues would totally snub her outside of the office. She also would soon notice that while blacks made up the majority of the population in Washington, D.C., no one would ever be able to tell that by the stories the Post was publishing. Mrs. Gilliam spent much, if not all, of her years at the paper trying to remedy that travesty, too. Eventually, she would get her own column, something that she very much wanted and valued. Dorothy Butler Gilliam gives credit where credit is due in this memoir. There is no shortage of naming names and honoring those who helped the newspaper world become more diversified, both in their employment practices and in the stories they ran. All those individual and events mentioned, however, sometimes gave the book more of a record feeling, as opposed to a memoir feeling. That in itself is not bad, except that those readers not in the field of journalism, may find it a bit too easy to start skimming over various parts of the story. Nevertheless, it's important to have a record of all that happened in the author's life. It's important to see that some individuals never stopped trying to obliterate all aspects of Jim Crow.(Note: I received a free ARC of this book from Amazon Vine.)
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  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    A compelling story written by a fine journalist. Dorothy Butler Gilliam's life and career spanned so many pivotal moments of revolution. Her spare story telling lacked emotional vibrance, but I read more fiction than memoirs. Her experiences in faith and community could have been more layered. I felt held at arms length throughout the entire book. It's interesting that Gilliam mentions the movie Waiting to Exhale. There is a quality of held breath, as if waiting for anger, or the other negative A compelling story written by a fine journalist. Dorothy Butler Gilliam's life and career spanned so many pivotal moments of revolution. Her spare story telling lacked emotional vibrance, but I read more fiction than memoirs. Her experiences in faith and community could have been more layered. I felt held at arms length throughout the entire book. It's interesting that Gilliam mentions the movie Waiting to Exhale. There is a quality of held breath, as if waiting for anger, or the other negative emotions the author mentions, to be unleashed.The descriptions of the civil rights heroes' willing exposure to violence, degradation and more left me horrified. Not only for the facts, but the author's almost medical analysis of those intense moments .I would benefit from reading a hard copy with photographs of the many talented and brave people who journeyed with the author.
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  • R.E. Conary
    January 1, 1970
    Dorothy Butler Gilliam’s memoir is not a straightforward narrative. It wanders back and forth in time and space as each chapter recalls a compelling aspect of her life and the world around her. She writes a personal history of being black and a woman as both a reporter and as one affected by the attitudes and incidents of the times. Her stories can be sad, uplifting, harrowing and amusing. It’s a good look at how much things have changed, but at the same time makes one realize how tenuous and la Dorothy Butler Gilliam’s memoir is not a straightforward narrative. It wanders back and forth in time and space as each chapter recalls a compelling aspect of her life and the world around her. She writes a personal history of being black and a woman as both a reporter and as one affected by the attitudes and incidents of the times. Her stories can be sad, uplifting, harrowing and amusing. It’s a good look at how much things have changed, but at the same time makes one realize how tenuous and lasting change may be.I received an Advance Reader Copy of Trailblazer.
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  • Rod Van Meter
    January 1, 1970
    An amazing set of stories by one of the, shall we say, trailblazing, African-American women journalists. Gilliam spent most of her career at the Washington Post and saw and did it all.Somewhat surprisingly for a former print reporter, the writing is sometimes a little rambling or not quite as tight as it could be, even repetitive in places. It reads like she told the many stories to someone else who put the book itself together.But those flaws are minor, I'm probably being a bit too critical sin An amazing set of stories by one of the, shall we say, trailblazing, African-American women journalists. Gilliam spent most of her career at the Washington Post and saw and did it all.Somewhat surprisingly for a former print reporter, the writing is sometimes a little rambling or not quite as tight as it could be, even repetitive in places. It reads like she told the many stories to someone else who put the book itself together.But those flaws are minor, I'm probably being a bit too critical since I had very high expectations, which it almost entirely meets. Read this book!
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  • Ken
    January 1, 1970
    Having witnessed the civil rights movement firsthand Dorothy Butler Gilliam's novel shows one woman's strength and perseverance during America's continued ethnocentrism is extremely informative. While I've seen 180-degree changes in numerous areas, I find the overall movement of racial inequality has been stymied by the current presidential administration and policies that have set the progress backward. Dorothy represents everything good in a human being in a time when the masses defended the " Having witnessed the civil rights movement firsthand Dorothy Butler Gilliam's novel shows one woman's strength and perseverance during America's continued ethnocentrism is extremely informative. While I've seen 180-degree changes in numerous areas, I find the overall movement of racial inequality has been stymied by the current presidential administration and policies that have set the progress backward. Dorothy represents everything good in a human being in a time when the masses defended the "status quo" When will America learn?.
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  • Beachreader
    January 1, 1970
    I was very interested in reading Gilliam's story, but I gave up after one chapter which needed some serious editing. Chronologically, the narrative jumped back and forth through her experiences at the Post, to J school at Columbia, to high school, to civil rights leaders, and in no particular order. One paragraph contained several unrelated sentences. Considering this is a memoir of a reporter who later became an editor, I am totally flummoxed. The Post had a reputation for quality writing and s I was very interested in reading Gilliam's story, but I gave up after one chapter which needed some serious editing. Chronologically, the narrative jumped back and forth through her experiences at the Post, to J school at Columbia, to high school, to civil rights leaders, and in no particular order. One paragraph contained several unrelated sentences. Considering this is a memoir of a reporter who later became an editor, I am totally flummoxed. The Post had a reputation for quality writing and superb editing. How could this woman have ever been part of that.
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  • Maxine
    January 1, 1970
    Forging through the timesMs. Gilliam shares her experience as the first African American woman in the newspaper business at the Washington Post. She accurately overlays the many changes in the American society for African Americans. Ms. Gilliam acknowledges the many people who supported her during her career and offers other supports in her life which brought her peace and joy.
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  • Mary
    January 1, 1970
    An insightful and informative memoir about what it was like to come of age as a black woman in the newsrooms during the Civil Rights Era and her fight to give people of color a voice in journalism. Dorothy Butler Giilliam fought for her place at the table and in doing so, set a place for many others.
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  • Lesa
    January 1, 1970
    If you are interested in media, in particular print journalism this is an interesting story of Dorothy Gilliam's career and her evolution as a pioneer in the media for diversity. I enjoyed the narrative a great deal, appreciated some othe personal elements of her story she included . If you are not interested in the topic you will not enjoy this book.
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  • Lisa D.
    January 1, 1970
    Trailblazer is one of the most informative memoirs by a Black journalist that I've read over the years. I appreciated Ms Gilliam sharing her story of breaking barriers, overcoming obstacles both professional and personal. It is because of journalists like her that I became a journalist in my hometown, Gary, IN.
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  • Madge
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoyed this book after seeing her interviewed on The Daily Show. What an amazing life she has led -a lot of firsts in the journalistic world. Not to mention she also was exposed to the art world through her husband.
  • Carol
    January 1, 1970
    I liked this book, which is a memoir by the first black female reporter at the Washington Post. She lived through many interesting times and events, and really was a trailblazer. But although it was interesting, I didn’t feel like she did her own story justice. It doesn’t grab you.
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  • Felicia Moore
    January 1, 1970
    This book reminds me just how important the black media is. Gilliam's journey through her career takes you into important historic events. I liked this book and would this book to those who like history or journalism.
  • Jo-jean Keller
    January 1, 1970
    I am thankful for Dorothy Butler Gilliam's achievements and memories. She opened my eyes to a different way of seeing and experiencing that I had seen from a different perspective.
  • Marcea
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars. Very interesting but irritatingly repetitive throughout the book.
  • Carol
    January 1, 1970
    Please see my review on Amazon. com under C. Wong. Thank you,
  • Kara Merry
    January 1, 1970
    Tells one story of a powerful Black woman
  • Ginny
    January 1, 1970
    Great read especially in conjunction with the book about Ethel Payne but very little was written after 2003 even though the book wasn't published until January 2019.
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