Recognizing the dearth of minority journalists in local television, radio and print, a group of African-American reporters and photographers formed the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists in the fall of 1976. Part of the group’s purpose was to collectively use its strength to push the mainstream media to diversify.
Among AABJ’s first projects were mentoring and scholarship programs. AABJ also sought to recognize groundbreaking professional journalists with its Pioneer Black Journalist Award and banquet. The first banquet was held in 1977 at the Butler Street YMCA’s Hungry Club. In 1984, AABJ hosted the National Association of Black Journalists’ national convention in Atlanta. Then U.S. presidential candidate Jesse Jackson was a guest speaker. A decade later, AABJ would host Unity ’94, the first gathering of black, Asian, Hispanic and Native American journalists on record.
Today, AABJ is an award-winning chapter with hundreds of members, who represent nearly every aspect of the communications industry including print, radio, television, new media and public relations.
AABJ’s tradition of professional development and excellence continues with workshops and travel abroad opportunities throughout the year for its members. The Byline, our quarterly newsmagazine, and aabj.org, our Web site, keep members on top of industry and chapter events and news. “In Contact,” our Emmy-award winning television show continues to shatter boundaries.
Our award-winning student chapter provides the professional chapter an avenue to support and encourage collegians in the metro area through mentorship, internships and leadership training. The chapter’s Xernona Clayton Scholarship Fund awards thousands of dollars to meritorious college students pursuing a career in journalism.
At our annual Pioneer Black journalist Awards, we acknowledge professional excellence for both large and small circulation media in print, television, broadcast and new media. We also take that time to acknowledge our college scholarship winners, volunteer of the year and our pioneer of the year.
Frederick Douglass is the model for the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists’ Pioneer Black Journalist Awards. Born into slavery, Douglass used the power of the pen to influence history. After escaping bondage in I 838, he joined with William Lloyd Garrison and other abolitionists to speak out against slavery. His newspaper, The North Star, featured scathing editorials on slavery, job discrimination and politics.
Through many speeches about justice, and through my newspaper and other writings, I discovered that the power of the word is the best means to bring about permanent positive changes, both for myself and others.
– Frederick Douglas