Journalism

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What journalist was the only black official war correspondent during World War I?

In 1818 Ralph Waldo Tyler (1859–1921), reporter and government official, became the first, and only, black official war correspondent during World War I. Tyler worked in a variety of jobs on the way to becoming a well-known journalist. His job as a stenographer at the Columbus Dispatch in Columbus, Ohio, gave him his start in 1888. While working there Tyler gained journalistic skills and also developed and strengthened his interest in politics. He stayed with the Dispatch for seventeen years, serving for a while as society editor. After working for the Ohio State Journal from 1901 to 1904, Tyler’s political activities and a friendship with Booker T. Washington led to his being appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt as an auditor in the Navy Department, where he served for nine years. Tyler lost this position in 1913 when the Woodrow Wilson administration removed black officeholders from their positions. While working as an organizer for the National Negro Business League, Tyler wrote columns that discussed the position of blacks in the South. In 1914 his columns were syndicated by the American Press Association.

By 1917 Tyler was back in Washington as secretary of the National Colored Soldiers Comfort Committee. When both a representative of the government and black newspaper editors agreed that a first-class journalist was needed to document the experiences of black soldiers in France during wartime, Tyler was a logical choice. He continued to write on this subject for the remainder of his life, even after the war ended.



Ralph Waldo Tyler was the only black journalist to cover World War I.

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