• Trailblazer

  • A Pioneering Journalist's Fight to Make the Media Look More Like America
  • By: Dorothy Butler Gilliam
  • Narrated by: January LaVoy
  • Length: 8 hrs and 58 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (71 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Dorothy Butler Gilliam, whose 50-year-career as a journalist put her in the forefront of the fight for social justice, offers a comprehensive view of racial relations and the media in the US.

Most civil rights victories are achieved behind the scenes, and this riveting, beautifully written memoir by a "Black first" looks back with searing insight on the decades of struggle, friendship, courage, humor, and savvy that secured what seems commonplace today - people of color working in mainstream media.

Told with a pioneering newspaper writer's charm and skill, Gilliam's full, fascinating life weaves her personal and professional experiences and media history into an engrossing tapestry. When we read about the death of her father and other formative events of her life, we glimpse the crippling impact of the segregated South before the civil rights movement when slavery's legacy still felt astonishingly close. We root for her as a wife, mother, and ambitious professional as she seizes once-in-a-lifetime opportunities never meant for a "dark-skinned woman" and builds a distinguished career. We gain a comprehensive view of how the media, especially newspapers, affected the movement for equal rights in this country. And in this humble, moving memoir, we see how an innovative and respected journalist and working mother helped provide opportunities for others.

With the distinct voice of one who has worked for and witnessed immense progress and overcome heart-wrenching setbacks, this audiobook covers a wide swath of media history - from the era of game-changing Negro newspapers like the Chicago Defender to the civil rights movement, feminism, and our current imperfect diversity. This timely memoir, which reflects the tradition of boot-strapping African American storytelling from the South, is a smart, contemporary consideration of the media. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 Dorothy Butler Gilliam (P)2019 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Dorothy Gilliam is a great reporter, a pioneer for all women in the news business, and African-American women particularly. Her story is about a time in American journalism where courage and brilliance were called for in the white-male bastions that were American newsrooms. It's a story that has been waiting a long time to be told." (Carl Bernstein, Pulitzer prize-winning reporter of Watergate fame)

"Dorothy Gilliam is a national treasure. Her groundbreaking career in journalism is a monument to triumph, inspiration, grace. She is admired by journalists of color everywhere - not only because of her pioneering body of work, but because she cared about us so much." (Kevin Merida, editor in chief of ESPN's The Undefeated and former managing editor of The Washington Post)

"Dorothy Gilliam lived a fascinating life and shares it with you in Trailblazer. She started out afraid to tell her editors that D.C. cabs wouldn't stop for her - a problem for a reporter who needed to get to stories on time. She wound up a member of a group of minority columnists who regularly interviewed presidents. Her book is a tribute to her generous spirit. No one made greater efforts to share her success with others, to teach school-age journalists, to open the ranks of newspaper management to minorities. So many people in journalism are grateful that they met Dorothy. Here's your chance." (Don Graham, former publisher of The Washington Post)

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Struggled to finish

It read as a story of facts which didn't disappoint in that regard. I would have liked a little more emotion and a little more depth about her struggle with weight perhaps, her struggle with her husband's mental illness, etc. Just a little more heart. Also there was no need to read her last column verbatim. It was a summary of what we already knew from the book. Overall the actual work she did in advancing diversity in journalism was important, much needed and valent. The book itself was not as good as the work she did.

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Upbeat and Honest

This is a description of a young woman whose intelligence, courage and persistence led her to success as the first Black woman reporter at the Washington Post during the Civil Rights movement. She is frank about her personal growth as she faced the reality of marriage and life in a racist, sexist professional world.

Through her eyes we see the dramatic social changes from the 1950s to the present. This would be a great history book for young adults and anyone who wants to see how far we’ve come and how far we need to go to achieve equality for marginalized people.

I would have liked more in-depth political facts and details about the Reagan era undoing of social programs started in the 60s and 70s.

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Love this book

Although I an an avid print journalism fan and supporter, I was not familiar with Ms. Butler Gilliam until listening to this book. I am glad I found the book on Audible and have told others about it. So many times in the past, I have been peeved because I stumble upon info on the greatness and contributions of a person of color that I should have learned about in school or at least heard about in life. Our accomplishments are often muted or made to seem less than they are. I have since learned to seek out these stories on my own. This is one that I found and so glad that I did.

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Fantastic Memoir

As someone who grew up in the same era although totally different milieu as the author, I enjoyed hearing about news and events from her perspective. Dorothy Butler Gilliam's life spanned the era from the nascent civil rights movement until today. Her writing is open, honest, and deeply moving. Her achievements are wide ranging and inspiring. If you enjoy biography and memoirs, this book is a sure winner.

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  • 05-16-22

Very informative!

Important for history. A must read for all going into media as a career. Well done!