Lerone Bennett, Jr. was born October 17, 1928, in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He was born to Lerone Bennett, Sr. and Alma Reed. When Bennett was just a child, the family moved from Clarksdale to Jackson, Mississippi. There, he attended public schools until he began college.
After graduating from high school, Bennett attended Morehouse College in Atlanta. He graduated with a B.A. in 1949. Later that year, he enrolled in courses at Atlanta University for his graduate studies. That same year, he became a newspaper journalist for the Atlanta Daily World. He graduated shortly thereafter and then moved to Chicago.
Bennett moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1952. He became the city editor for JET magazine, which was founded by John H. Johnson. Two years later, he was hired on as an associate editor at Ebony magazine, which was also owned by Johnson. By 1958, he became the senior editor at Ebony, a position that he held for the remainder of his career.
Before the Mayflower
After writing a series of articles about Black history, Bennett was encouraged to write books about Black history. The articles that he had written for Ebony were compiled into his first book, Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, 1619-1962, which was published in 1963. His book was a major success. It afforded him the opportunity to write and publish more books.
Forced into Glory
In 1964, Bennett wrote What Manner of Man. This was the first biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., who was Bennett’s classmate at Morehouse. Between 1964 and 1979, he wrote a number of books that encapsulated the Black experience in America. His most famous book, however, was published in 2000: Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream, exposes Abraham Lincoln as a White supremacist as opposed to a martyr for racial equality and justice.
Bennett eventually became an executive editor of Ebony. He also served as an advisor and consultant to many national commissions and organizations. He received a multitude of awards and honors, including eight honorary degrees for his contribution to Black history. Lerone Bennett died February 13, 2018, in Chicago, Illinois. He was 89 years old.
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