Roi Ottley

Vincent Lushington "Roi" Ottley (August 2, 1906 — October 2, 1960) was an American journalist and writer.[1][2] Although largely forgotten today, he was among the most famous African American correspondents in the United States during the mid-20th century.[3]

Roi Ottley
BornVincent Lushington Ottley
(1906-08-02)August 2, 1906
New York City, New York, United States
DiedOctober 2, 1960(1960-10-02) (aged 54)
Occupationwriter, journalist, broadcaster
Notable worksNew World A-Coming: Inside Black America

Early lifeEdit

Ottley was born in New York City on August 2, 1906, to Jerome Peter and Beatrice Ottley, the second of their three children.[1] His parents were immigrants from the Caribbean island country of Grenada.[2] He attended public schools in the city, where he excelled in basketball, baseball, and track,[2] and in 1926 he won a track scholarship to St. Bonaventure College in Allegany, New York.[1][2][4] At St. Bonaventure, he was a writer and cartoonist for the campus newspaper.[2] In 1928, he transferred to the University of Michigan to concentrate on journalism.[2] He later studied part-time at St. John's Law School[1] and Columbia University, both in New York City.[2][4]


Ottley worked as a journalist for the Amsterdam News from 1931 to 1937.[1] In 1937, Ottley joined the New York City Writers' Project as an editor.[1] In 1943 he published New World A-Coming: Inside Black America, which described life for African Americans in Harlem, New York City, in the 1920s and 1930s.[2][3][4] The book incorporated Ottley's reports from the New York City Writer's Project.[1] It won the Life in America prize, an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and a Peabody Award, and was adapted for a series of radio broadcasts.[1][2][4]

Ottley became the publicity director of national CIO War Relief Committee in 1943.[1] He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the US Army in 1944.[2] During World War II, Ottley reported from Europe for Liberty Magazine, PM, and the Pittsburgh Courier, becoming the first African American war correspondent to cover the war for major newspapers.[1][2][4] Ottley covered events such as the Normandy Invasion, the hanging of Mussolini, and the Arab–French conflict in Syria.[1] He also interviewed important personalities like Governor Talmadge of Georgia, and Samuel Green, Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.[1] Ottley also became the first African American to interview a pope when he met with Pope Pius XII in 1945.[2]

He later worked for the Chicago Tribune and broadcast reports for CBS and BBC radio.[1]

Ottley's other published works include Black Odyssey: The Story of the Negro in America, 1948; No Green Pastures, 1951; and Lonely Warrior: The Life and Times of Robert S. Abbot, 1955. Two were published posthumously: White Marble Lady in 1965, and The Negro in New York: An Informal Social History, 1626–1940 in 1967.[1]


Ottley died on October 2, 1960 from a heart attack.[1][2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Roi Ottley Was An Outstanding Writer". African American Registry. Retrieved 30 January 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Ottley, Vincent Lushington ("Roi")". Retrieved 30 January 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b McWhirter, Cameron. "Roi Ottley: An African-American Journalist Covers World War II". NiemanReports. Retrieved 11 February 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ a b c d e "Roi Ottley Collection: St. Bonaventure University – Biography". Retrieved 30 January 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

Primary sourcesEdit

External linksEdit