Hampton University

faculty q&a

Journalism professor Finds Missing Link in NABJ History

Wayne Dawkins, Assistant Professor - Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications

In 1990, he realized the need for a history of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and began his search. Now 27 years later, assistant professor in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications Wayne Dawkins has found the missing link. Dawkins, an award winning journalist, received his Bachelor's of Arts degree from Long Island University Brooklyn Campus and a Master's of Science degree from the Columbia School of Journalism. A veteran in the field, his career experiences span from reporter to editor. In 1990, he began working on a history of the NABJ after realizing a need to chronicle the work of the organization during its early years. This past summer he completed a missing link in the history of the organization by finding the last missing founder of NABJ. Still an active member of the NABJ he has held the titles of regional director, scholarship chairman, and historian. Currently he serves as faculty advisor for the HU Chapter of NABJ. He is also the owner and founder of August Press and the author of "Rugged Waters: Black Journalists Swim the Mainstream." Curious about what compelled Dawkins to continue his search, The Student Connection asked him to share his story.

Q. Why was one of the NABJ founders hard to find?

A. Well two things happened. When I got the call about an up-to-date founders address list, I decided to try one more time to find this last founder. She had changed her professional name. When she signed the original list in 1975 she was writing under her middle name Carole instead of her first name Oona'o. Additionally she left the journalism field for a career in the healthcare industry after the death of her mother. So from there I found a recent number for her and contacted her and eventually I got a chance to interview her and talk with her about her experience as a founding member of the organization.

Q. Are you currently working on any projects?

A. In the past year and a half I have written 21 encyclopedia entries. Four have just been published in The Encyclopedia of American Journalism, and in a few days The African National Biography is going to be published and I anticipate having five maybe six entries in there. I have also written a number of entries in the Oxford Encyclopedia of African frican Ameican History. Most recently I am working on the biography of Andrew W. Cooper, who was publisher of the City Sun Newspaper and founder of the Trans-Urban News Service.

Q. Did you always have a love for journalism and history?

A. Yes I loved history. As a child I excelled in social studies, and then the interest was really sparked as a college student. At Long Island University, I had a professor named Joseph Dorinson that really brought history to life when I had him as a freshman. It was the first time anyone had introduced a diverse aspect of history to me instead of the traditional stories I had learned in school.

Q. Throughout your childhood what journalist did you admire most for their writing style?

A. One of the people that made a profound impression on me was Earl Caldwell and he now teaches here at Hampton as well. I was taken by his courage. He covered the Black Panthers and when the government asked him to testify before a grand jury and submit his notes he refused. So, I will tell all of my students that you have an obligation to go meet him because he is living history. Also Bob Maynard who was a columnist, he could relate very complicated issues or really heavy politics around dinner table conversation.

Q. Where was your first internship?

A.When I was a college student, I jumped right in. I wrote for the weekly school newspaper and three and a half of my four years of college I worked for the school newspaper. I rose from reporter and when I graduated I was associate editor of the newspaper. As far as internships, the summer after I graduated I could not find a daily newspaper job. That summer I met a man named Andrew W. Cooper. He had just started his news service, Trans-Urban News Service, and that summer he did not have money to pay me but he liked my industrious attitude. So, when he got funding that winter he hired me as one of his interns. I did that for 18 months then I went to graduate school.

Q. Are you currently reading any good books?

A. Yes my favorite books are biographies and historical books. I just finished reading a book called "One Drop" about the writer and critic Anatole Boyard. It's written by his daughter Bliss Boyard, who contacted me to verify the issue of whether or not her father was the first African- American literary critic at a major newspaper, and in fact it's true. And the book unearths the mystery behind his career at The New York Times.

Q. What other activities do you enjoy besides writing and teaching?

A. I have a great love of Jazz and R&B. Lately I have been playing a CD by Heath Brothers and a Miles Davis Tribute album called "VSOP" I love movies. Over the break I saw as many movies as possible. I watch them for entertainment, as well as movies that inform my teaching, because I also teach Mass Media and there is a movie component in there.

Q. What are your plans for the future?

A. My plan for the future is possibly writing a trilogy for "The NABJ Story."

-Autumn D. Wilds