Ophelia Settle Egypt was a pioneering African American journalist and civil rights activist who dedicated her life to exposing racial discrimination and promoting social justice. She was born in 1903 in Virginia and moved to New York City in 1920, where she began her career as a reporter for the New York Amsterdam News, one of the leading black newspapers in the country. She later worked for the Pittsburgh Courier, the Chicago Defender, and the Associated Negro Press, covering stories that were often ignored or distorted by the mainstream media.
Egypt was not afraid to challenge the status quo and confront the powerful. She interviewed prominent figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Fidel Castro. She also investigated cases of police brutality, lynching, segregation, and discrimination in education, employment, and housing. She exposed the atrocities committed by the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens’ Councils in the South, and advocated for civil rights legislation and anti-lynching laws. She was arrested several times for her activism, but never gave up her fight for equality and justice.
Egypt was also a mentor and a role model for many young black journalists who followed in her footsteps. She founded the National Association of Negro Women Writers in 1941, and served as its president until 1957. She also taught journalism at Howard University and New York University, and wrote several books and articles on black history and culture. She received numerous awards and honors for her work, including the George Polk Award, the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal, and the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s Russwurm Award. She died in 1984 at the age of 81, leaving behind a legacy of courage and excellence.