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*Ray Sprigle was born on this date in 1886. He was a white-American journalist and author.
Ray Sprigle was born in Akron, Ohio, to parents of colonial Pennsylvanian German ancestry. He attended local schools. After his freshman year, he left Ohio State University and started working as a newspaper reporter and a freelance pulp fiction writer. Sprigle had a long and notable career in newspaper journalism, mostly as a general reporter with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
In 1938 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Reporting for a series of articles in the post-Gazette proving that Hugo Black, newly appointed as a justice to the United States Supreme Court and a former member of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama. The evidence that Sprigle uncovered included, among other things, a photostatic copy of a letter from Black written on the stationery of the Alabama Klan asking to resign from the organization.
In May 1948, Sprigle, at age 61 and using the name "James Crawford," began a thirty-day, four-thousand-mile undercover mission through the Deep South. Passing as a black man, he got support from the NAACP and John Wesley Dobbs, a prominent 66-year-old political leader and early civil rights activist from Atlanta. Dobbs, known and respected across the South, took Sprigle into many black communities and introduced him as an NAACP field investigator to people he otherwise would never have been able to meet or interview. When Sprigle returned to Pittsburgh, he wrote 21 first-person articles that exposed white readers to the oppression, discrimination, and humiliation that 10 million blacks lived every day by the Jim Crow South's system of legal segregation.
The series featured on the front page of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette under the title I Was a Negro in the South for 30 Days reported on a range of social, political, and economic issues, including the inferiority of segregated black public schools. According to the paper's publisher, the post-Gazette had never run a series that received more attention. His series was nationally syndicated and carried by about 15 other newspapers, including the New York Herald Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Pittsburgh Courier, the country's largest Black-owned newspaper. Sprigle's book followed his undercover journalism In the Land of Jim Crow (1949). Ray Sprigle died on December 22, 1957.