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Fordham to Award 2021 Sperber Prize to Biographies of Civil Rights Reporter and War Correspondent

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Kerri K. Greenidge’s biography Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter and Lesley M. M. Blume’s work FALLOUT: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World, about war correspondent John Hersey, will be awarded the 2021 Ann M. Sperber Book Prize by Fordham University.

The Sperber Prize is given in honor of the late Ann M. Sperber, the author of Murrow: His Life and Times, the critically acclaimed biography of journalist Edward R. Murrow. One edition of that work was published by Fordham University Press, connecting the Sperber family to the University. Through the generous support of Ann’s mother Lisette, the $1,000 award was established to promote and encourage biographies and memoirs that focus on a media professional; it has been presented annually by Fordham’s Department of Communication and Media Studies since 1999.

Associate Professor of Communication and Media Studies Beth Knobel, Ph.D., director of the Sperber Prize, said that the jury decided to present the award to two books this year, as each was so deserving of the prize. The two winners will receive $500 each and are invited to speak about their works at a virtual Fordham award ceremony on November 3.

Knobel praised Black Radical for bringing the work of the Boston newspaper editor and civil rights activist William Monroe Trotter to light. “Black Radical is a revelation,” Knobel said. “William Monroe Trotter was truly a seminal figure in the civil rights movement, but his extraordinary life story had been little known by the wider public until Kerri Greenidge brought it to prominence through this book.” Trotter, a Harvard graduate, founded the Boston Guardian newspaper and used it as a platform to call for racial justice in early 20th-century America. “Black Radical is exhaustively researched, beautifully written, and extremely timely. In telling Trotter’s story, Greenidge deftly sheds new light on the entire civil rights movement from Reconstruction into the 1930s,” Knobel said. The book was published in 2020 by Liveright Books, a division of W.W. Norton.

The second winning book, FALLOUT: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World, explores how reporter John Hersey came to expose the U.S. government cover-up of the consequences of the Hiroshima nuclear explosion for The New Yorker in 1946. “FALLOUT cuts to the very core of what makes journalism a valuable public service: watchdog journalism,” Knobel explained. “Blume’s gripping narrative explains how Hersey showed that the U.S. government was lying when it said there were no ill effects from the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II. Blume’s archival research, done around the world, puts the reader in Hersey’s shoes and in those of his editors at The New Yorker, trying to face down systemic hypocrisy.” The book was published in 2020 by Simon & Schuster.

Kerri K. Greenidge, Ph.D., is Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora and director of the American Studies program at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Greenidge received her doctorate in American Studies from Boston University, where her specialty included African-American history, American political history, and African-American and African diasporic literature in the post-emancipation and early modern era. Her research explores the role of African-American literature in the creation of radical Black political consciousness, particularly as it relates to local elections and democratic populism during the Progressive Era. Her work includes historical research for the Wiley-Blackwell Anthology of African-American Literature, the Oxford African American Studies Center, and PBS. For nine years she worked as a historian for the Boston African American National Historic Site in Boston, through which she published her first book, Boston Abolitionists (2006).

Lesley M. M. Blume is a Los Angeles-based journalist, author, and biographer. Her work has appeared in Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Paris Review, among many other publications. Her last nonfiction book, Everybody Behaves Badly, was a New York Times bestseller.

Previous winners of the Sperber Prize include Working by Robert Caro, Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow, Cronkite by Douglas Brinkley, Lives of Margaret Fuller by John Matteson, Reporter by Seymour M. Hersh, The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century by Alan Brinkley, Avid Reader: A Life by Robert Gottlieb, and All Governments Lie! The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.F. Stone by Myra MacPherson.  More information about the prize can be found at Sperberprize.com.

The Sperber Prize will be awarded on November 3 at 6 p.m. in a Fordham virtual ceremony that will be open to the public.

For more information, please contact Beth Knobel at knobel@fordham.edu or 718-817-5041.

 

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