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Thu, 08.10.1905

Era Thompson, Journalist born

Era B. Thompson

*This date in 1905 marks the birth of Era Bell Thompson. She was a Black 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, earning a journalism degree. After graduation, she began her career in Chicago in 1933, finding work as a housekeeper and then with The Chicago Defender.

Thompson attacked Marcus Garvey’s “Back to Africa Movement” and received much reader opinion for and against her position. At 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' in 1946. Thompson became editor of Negro Digest, then joined Ebony magazine in 1947. She was co-managing magazine editor 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 blacks had no hotel rooms. Thompson died in 1986 in her Chicago home.

To be a Writer

To Become an Editor


Outside In
African American History in Iowa 1838-2000
by Bill Silag, Susan-Koch Bridgford, and Hal Chase
Copyright 2001
Published by the State Historical Society of Iowa
ISBN 0-8033-013-1

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