His book, a searing examination of how the enslavement of African-Americans persisted deep into the 20th century, was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. The Slavery by Another Name documentary was broadcast in February 2012 and attracted an audience of 4.8 million viewers.
Until joining the Washington Post in 2011, Blackmon was the longtime chief of The Wall Street Journal’s Atlanta bureau and the paper’s Senior National Correspondent. He has written about or directed coverage of some of the most pivotal stories in American life, including the election of President Barack Obama, the rise of the tea party movement and the BP oil spill. Overseeing coverage of 11 southeastern states for the Journal, he and his team of reporters were responsible for the Journal’s acclaimed coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the failed federal response after that disaster, the Journal’s investigation into the training and preparations of the 9/11 hijackers in Florida, immigration, poverty, politics and daily reporting on more than 2,500 corporations based in the region.
As a writer and editor at large, Blackmon more recently led the Journal’s coverage of the tea party and the final hours before the BP oil spill—for which he and a team of other Journal writers were finalists for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. Those stories received a Gerald Loeb Award in June 2011.
Blackmon has written extensively over the past 25 years about the American quandary of race–exploring the integration of schools during his childhood in a Mississippi Delta farm town, lost episodes of the Civil Rights movement, and, repeatedly, the dilemma of how a contemporary society should grapple with a troubled past. Many of his stories in The Wall Street Journal explored the interplay of wealth, corporate conduct, the American judicial system, and racial segregation. International assignments have included the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the reunification of East and West Germany, the Civil War in Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia, post apartheid South Africa and the international war crimes tribunal in the Hague. Political assignments have included the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2008, presidential campaigns of 1988, 2002, 2008, and 2012, the post presidency of Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton while governor of Arkansas in the 1980s.
Blackmon is also a co-founder and board member of two socially and ethnically diverse charter schools serving more than 600 students, including his own two children, in grades kindergarten through eight in the inner city of Atlanta.
In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, Slavery by Another Name was a New York Times bestseller in both hardback and soft cover editions, and was awarded a 2009 American Book Award, the 2009 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters non-fiction book prize, a 2008 Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights Book Award, the NAACP Freedom Fund Outstanding Achievement Award, and many other citations. He has been honored by the state legislature of Georgia for distinguished scholarship and service to history. In 2010, he received the Grassroots Justice Award from the Georgia Justice Project.
The documentary film based on Slavery by Another Name was directed by distinguished filmmaker Sam Pollard, with more than $1.5 million in funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and major corporate sponsors.
Blackmon is a much sought after lecturer on race, history and social memory. In Spring 2010, he was invited by Attorney General Eric Holder to present a lecture to senior Department of Justice of officials in Washington D.C. He also has lectured at Harvard School of Law, Yale University, Princeton, the New School, Emory University, Vanderbilt School of Law, the Clinton and Lincoln presidential libraries, and many other institutions.
The Journal’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina received a special National Headliner award in 2006. In 2000, the National Association of Black Journalists honored Blackmon for his stories revealing the secret role of J.P. Morgan & Co. during the 1960s in funneling funds to opponents of the Civil Rights Movement.
Prior to his work at The Wall Street Journal, Blackmon covered race and politics at the Atlanta Journal Constitution for seven years. His reporting on corruption at Atlanta City Hall in the 1990s helped lead to the conviction and imprisonment of eight city officials, including two former councilmen and the city’s chief investment officer.
Slavery by Another Name grew out of his 2001 article on slave labor in The Wall Street Journal. It revealed the use of forced labor by dozens of U.S. corporations and commercial interests in coal mines, timber camps, factories and farms in cities and states across the South, beginning after the Civil War and continuing until the beginning of World War II.
Janet Maslin wrote in the New York Times that the book is “relentless and fascinating” and “will now haunt us all.” New York University Pulitzer Prize winning historian David Levering Lewis says the book reveals “an America holocaust that dare not speak its name, a rivetingly written, terrifying history of six decades of racial degradation in the service of white supremacy.” Bill Moyers called Slavery by Another Name “brilliant” reporting. Cynthia Tucker, Pulitzer winning editorial page editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that Slavery by Another Name “illuminates … an ignominious economic system that depended on coerced labor and didn’t flinch from savagery toward fellow human beings. Blackmon’s exhaustive reportage should put an end to the oft-repeated slander that black Americans tend toward lawlessness.”
Blackmon joined the Journal in October 1995 as a reporter in Atlanta. Prior to joining the Journal, Blackmon was a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where he covered race and politics in Atlanta. Previously, he was a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat in 1986-1987, and co-owner and managing editor of the Daily Record from 1987 to 1989, both in Little Rock, Ark.
Raised in Leland, Miss., Blackmon penned his first newspaper story for the weekly Leland Progress at the age of 12. He received his degree in English from Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. He lives in downtown Atlanta and Charlottesville, VA.
- An Afternoon/Evening with Douglas Blackmon