Posthumous memoir of the first African-American managing editor of the New York Times.
Boyd (1950–2006) was the youngest child in a poor St. Louis family, and his young mother died when he was three. The subsequent departure of his father caused the feelings of “fatalism” that would saturate his early adulthood. Raised by his stern yet loving grandmother, Boyd sought guidance and protection from his older brother, a cousin and, during his teens, the Coopers, a compassionate Jewish family. Through forced bussing and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Boyd emerged impassioned by writing and was awarded a scholarship to the University of Missouri, along with a copyboy job at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. As his confidence and professional acumen grew—along with his awareness of “openly racist attitudes and slights”—he fell in love with and married Sheila, a fellow writer. Though the marriage dissolved years later, Boyd’s career blossomed—first as a White House correspondent, followed by years of laborious, racially challenging ladder-climbing he calls “the ugly underside of life at the Times.” The author’s courageous fight for racial equality both inside and outside the workplace never ceased, and he smartly remarks that in America’s newsrooms, African-Americans “have been tolerated but rarely embraced.” Eventually the fact-heavy text becomes consumed with episodes of newsroom drama, including his love/hate relationship with the Times’ “pragmatic” executive editor Howell Raines. After remarrying and starting a family, Boyd’s bubble burst with his involuntary resignation following the fallout from the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal in 2003. Photographs and chapters prefaced by anecdotal commentary from peers and friends add integrity to a comprehensive, noteworthy memoir.
An important, culturally sensitive portrait of success, failure and atonement.