'Ted Talk' on Hopkinsville Journalist Rescheduled to March

Feb 18, 2015

Credit Courtesy of Jennifer Brown, Kentucky New Era archives

Ted Poston was born in Hopkinsville in 1906. He attended an African American high school in Hopkinsville and earned his bachelor's degree in Nashville. In 1928, he moved to New York and joined the Harlem Renaissance. There, he became the first African American writer on staff at the New York Post and the first to make a career at a white mainstream paper, where he covered the major events of the Civil Rights Era. Kentucky New Era Opinion Editor Jennifer Brown joins Kate Lochte on Sounds Good to preview her "Ted Talk" coming up in March, with more about Hopkinsville's own, the "Dean of Black Journalists," Ted Poston.

Note: The talk was originally scheduled for Thursday, February 19, but due to weather has been rescheduled to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 12 at the Hopkinsville Christian County Library on Bethel Street in downtown Hopkinsville.

Ted Poston was born into a large family in Hopkinsville in 1906. His parents were both educators. He graduated from the African American high school in 1924 and within weeks he hitchhiked to Nashville and enrolled in the Tennessee Agriculture and Industrial School, where he earned his bachelor's degree. In 1928, he found himself in New York and in the thick of the Harlem Renaissance, where he began his journalism career.

Poston had two older brothers who had been producing a newspaper called The Contender, which started in Hopkinsville, then moved to Nashville, then north to Detroit and finally to New York. Ted Poston wrote for his brothers and several different publications and began freelancing for the New York Post. The editor of the Post paid him by the column inch, but he produced so much copy that he was eventually put on staff, becoming the first African American to do so and the first to make a career at a white mainstream paper. The Post was a different paper then than it is today, Brown says, it was respected for serious coverage especially of the Civil Rights Era.

Poston covered the Scottsboro Trial, Brown V. Board of Education, the Emmett Till lynching trial, George Wallace's stand inside the Alabama school door, and a rape trial in Florida which resulted in him being nominated for the Pulitzer. He didn't win the Pulitzer that year, but won the George Polk Award, a high journalism award. Fifty years after that coverage appeared in the post in 1949, the series he wrote, "Horror in the Sunny South," was selected by the New York University School of Journalism as one of the 100 best works of journalism in the 20th Century, ranked among the Watergate coverage, reports from WWII and Edward R. Murrow's expose of Joseph McCarthy. Brown says people who studied journalism recognized how good Ted Poston's work was.

Kathleen Hauke edited The Dark Side of Hopkinsville, stories of Poston's early life, which weren't journalism stories but "embellishments." While researching Langston Hughes she came across Poston. She was then teaching at an African American College in Atlanta when she learned that a publication was being put together of some of the great black writers. She volunteered to write something about Poston and became acquainted with his friend Henry Lee Moon, who had mentioned that he had a few short stories about Poston's childhood. The stories were set around 1912 to 1915 when Ted was in elementary school. Stories of his antics with his friends and their view of the world - watching black leaders in Hopkinsville and how they dealt with the white community.

More about the "Ted Talk" at Hopkinsville New Era