Born January 25, 1916 in Elizabeth City,
Reporter, editor and columnist for the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the foremost dailies of the “Negro Press;”served as special assistant to NY Governor and U.S Vice President Nelson Rockefeller.
Reporter, editor, columnist, radio host, special assistant to governors, member of different task forces, Evelyn Cunningham has been involved in much of the reporting and shaping of American civil rights. She covered the Civil Rights Movement as a reporter for one of the foremost African American newspapers the Pittsburgh Courier. Cunningham has also served underrepresented Americans through seeking to improve opportunities and increase rights for African Americans, women and poor citizens, through public and private positions within the government and various organizations.
Evelyn Elizabeth Long was born on January 25, 1916, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina in Pasquotank County. Her mother, Mary Whitehurst Long, a dressmaker and father, Clyde Long, a cabdriver were very involved in their children’s (Cunningham has a brother, Clyde Whitehurst) education. When her parents heard their daughter say she wanted to pick cotton when she grew up, they moved the family from North Carolina to Harlem, New York, where African Americans were progressive. Upon reaching New York, Cunningham did well in school and graduated from Hunter College High School in 1934. She later went to Long Island University where she graduated with a BA in the social sciences in 1943.
In 1940, Cunningham began to work for the Pittsburgh Courier by clipping stories from the New York Times that were relevant to blacks and rewriting these stories for the Courier. She was a reporter, columnist, editor and city editor with the Pittsburgh Courier from 1940-1962. Cunningham covered lynchings, major events, protests, and key figures such as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X during this era. She was known for getting people to open up and tell her things, stories they might not tell others.
In 1961, interested in being involved in direct action while reporting, Cunningham traveled with Percy Sutton and other NAACP members to the Double T Diner in Rosedale, MD to stage a sit-in protesting segregation practices in restaurants. The group was arrested, found guilty of trespassing and fined $101.
In this same year, Cunningham began hosting “At Home With Evelyn Cunningham,” a half hour radio show on WLIB in New York. During the show’s five years and popularity, Cunningham interviewed significant figures within the African American community in New York.
Evelyn Cunningham’s post-journalistic career developed when she became special assistant to former baseball player and political consultant to Governor Rockefeller, Jackie Robinson. In this position and others that followed, she continued her service to the American public. Cunningham was the special assistant to New York Governors Nelson A. Rockefeller and Malcolm Wilson, and director of the Women’s Unit in the office of the Governor between 1969-1974. In 1969, Cunningham accompanied Rockefeller to several Caribbean countries in order to research and write a report on racial problems and women’s problems in that region. Under President Richard Nixon, Cunningham was appointed to the Task Force on Women’s Rights and Responsibilities (1969). From 1975-1976, she also served as special assistant to U.S. President Gerald Ford, office of Vice President Rockefeller. In 1970, Cunningham helped to found the New York Coalition of One Hundred Black Women, a nonprofit organization which seeks to improve the lives of black women and their families through implementing initiatives and services to address important social, economic, political, cultural issues. She has belonged to many feminist organizations throughout the years and has had a special interest in working within the government and in nonprofits on addressing major issues that concern women.
Evelyn Cunningham was one of five former reporters of the Pittsburgh Courier to receive the prestigious George Polk Award in 1998 on behalf of the newspaper. It was the first time the award usually reserved for an individual had been given to a newspaper. She also won Women of the Century Award from the Century Club, (NYC) in 1998. A nonagenarian, Cunningham serves on different boards and keeping young people involved in the arts. She lives in New York with her husband, Austin Brown.VIDEO CLIPS
URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/cunninghamevelyn