Lerone Bennett Jr. was the gold standard for Black journalists and historians. As Amiri Baraka once eulogized about James Baldwin, Bennett “traveled the world like its historian and its biographer.”
People remember “Before the Mayflower,” but they might have forgotten that Bennett once shared a jeep with the SNCC activists in the South, covered the Million Man March, and, perhaps one of his greatest articles, covered extensively the Pan-African Conference in Tanzania in 1974 (See below). That last article was one of the most substantive for a Black publication, and that was when there was actual competition!
Bennett made Ebony a legitimate publication, and Johnson knew it. Johnson will forever be known to me as the Black millionaire who funded his own historian. Together, they made money with Bennett’s book. But they also helped to make history by writing history.
I grew up with “A Pictorial History of Black America,” Bennett’s “encyclopedia” series on Black history that was published in the 1970s.
Also, he wrote my favorite history book, “The Shaping of Black America.” Sadly, it’s one of his lesser-known works. In it, Bennett describes the founding and the building of Black America in the 18th century, describing the development of Black communities.
I have spent my life imitating Lerone Bennett Jr., and will continue to do so.
BENNETT 1974 PAN-AFRICANISM AT CROSSROADS 6TH PAC REVIEW