Peggy Peterman

The St. Petersburg Times, United States.

Peggy Peterman (1936-2004) was hired to write for the “Negro News Page” for the St. Petersburg Times in 1965, but shortly after, she wrote a long letter to the executive editor, suggesting that page should be abolished.

In writing columns that would specifically convey the experiences of black Americans, Peterman hoped “to paint the pictures of black people’s hopes, dreams, triumphs, tragedies, successes.” She wrote primarily about those topics closest to her heart – social, children’s, and international issues – and penned poignant, introspective pieces until her retirement in 1996.

Peterman walked into the St. Petersburg Times newsroom during an “exciting but tense” period, as she wrote in her reflection of career when she left the Times. The U.S. Congress had just passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In March 1965, black and white people marching in Alabama, her home state, were attacked and beaten by 200 state police using tear gas, nightsticks and whips.

As an African-American journalist, she came as a person who wanted to write but also as a person “committed to right the wrongs for my people.” She was hired to work for the “Negro News Page”, which was distributed only to black neighborhoods. She soon came to see this page as a symbol of segregation, and in her 14-page memo to the then executive editor Donald K. Baldwin, she detailed the reasons why she thought the page should be abolished. The page was discontinued in May 1967.

After 20 years as a reporter, she became a columnist and joined the editorial board in 1994. The Times created the Peggy Mitchell Peterman Scholarship in 1997, which awarded an exceptional journalism student from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

Peterman received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Black Journalists at its 1989 national convention in New York City. She received the Humanitarian Award from the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission and the Links in 1995.

She was the founder/director of the Black History Pageant, which was established in the 1970s as a vehicle for talented young people to explore the history of African Americans from Ancient Africa to present through drama, dance poetry and music.

Peggy Peterman is the eighth IWMF Lifetime Achievement Award winner from the United States, following Bonnie Angelo (1998), Nancy Woodhull (1997), Meg Greenfield (1996), Helen Thomas (1995), Katharine Graham (1994), Nan Robertson (1993) and Barbara Walters (1992). Awardees after Peterman include: Flora Lewis (2000), Colleen “Koky” Dishon (2001), Mary McGrory(2002), Belva Davis (2004), Molly Ivins (2005) and Edith Lederer (2008).

Highlights