Lerone Bennett Jr. worked as a journalist, historian, and scholar over the course of his long career. The former EBONY editor and author passed last week, leaving behind a strong volume of historical works that still stand as valued resources today.
Bennett was born October 17, 1928 in Clarksdale, Mississippi and raised primarily in Jackson. As a teenager, Bennett witnessed Morehouse College students respond to racism in a dignified fashion. This moved Bennett to focus on attending the school, which he did alongside Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
At Morehouse, Bennett expanded on the journalism skills he developed in high school by working as an editor for the college newspaper After college, The Kappa Alpha Psi man began working as a reporter for Atlanta Daily World in 1949 until 1953 when he joined EBONY.
Bennett became a close ally of EBONY’s founder John H. Johnson, and was at the forefront of covering historic moments inspired by the civil rights movement.
In 1962, Bennett’s Before The Mayflower: A History Of Black America was published to critical acclaim and stands as one of the best books of its kind.
He also wrote 1964’s What Manner Of Man: A Biography of Martin Luther King along with other titles. In 2000, Bennett’s Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream offered sharp critique of Lincoln’s legend as the reason slavery ended in the United States.
Bennett settled in the Chicago region after working as a professor at Northwestern University and serving on the Chicago Public Library board. His late wife, Gloria, who passed in 2009. was a JET journalist that covered the lynching of Emmett Till.
Bennett is survived by three daughters and three grandchildren. He was 89.