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Era B. Thompson
*This date in 1905 marks the birth of Era Bell Thompson. She was an African American writer and journalist.
From Des Moines, Iowa, she grew up a child of the only black family in Driscoll, N.D in 1917. After attending secondary schools in the Driscoll-Steele area and graduating from Bismarck High School in 1924, she was a track star for two years at the University of North Dakota. Then she attended Morningside College in Iowa where earned a journalism degree. After graduation she began her career in Chicago in 1933, first finding work as a housekeeper then with The Chicago Defender.
Thompson attacked Marcus Garvey’s “Back to Africa Movement” and received much reader opinion for and against her position. With the beginning of the Great Depression, she worked at a Settlement House and got jobs through the Works Progress Administration (WPA). In 1945, Thompson was awarded a Newberry fellowship, which supported her while she wrote her autobiography, American Daughter 1946. Thompson became editor of Negro Digest, then joined Ebony magazine in 1947. She was co-managing editor of the magazine from 1941 to 1964, then international editor from 1964 until she retired.
During her journalism career, Thompson reported from Africa, India, Australia, South America and the South Pacific. In 1953, she traveled through 18 African countries for her book, Africa Land of my Fathers. She spent a night in a South African jail in 1957 because authorities said there were no hotel rooms for Blacks. Thompson died in 1986 in her Chicago home.
African-American History in Iowa 1838-2000
by Bill Silag, Susan-Koch Bridgford, Hal Chase
Published by the State Historical Society if Iowa