Black History: Ralph McGill

29 reasons to celebrate Black History Month: No. 9, Ralph McGill

A civil rights champion used the power of media

February marks Black History Month. Follow the AJC this month for a series of short stories and videos and people, places and events that played a significant role in the development of black people in America. 

No. 9

Ralph McGill: Ralph McGill was a longtime editor and publisher of the Atlanta Constitution.  From June 1938 until his death in February 1969, McGill wrote more than 10,000 columns. But they weren’t just any columns. McGill used the power of the paper to become one of the most important voices of the South as he wrote against segregation and the failure of  “separate but equal." He was a champion of civil rights at a Southern paper in a Southern city at a time when most of the South wasn’t willing to go as far. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1959 for editorial writing, including his "A Church, a School,” about the aftermath of the Temple bombing of 1958.  Martin Luther King Jr. mentioned McGill by name in his "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" in 1963. He said McGill  was one of the "few enlightened white persons" to understand and sympathize with the civil rights movement. McGill won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964.

RELATED: Ralph McGill’s column about the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Reason No. 10: Mary Lou Williams

More Black History Month stories from the AJC

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