Louis Lomax, the first black TV journalist who introduced Malcolm X to the masses

Theodora Aidoo February 02, 2020
Louis E. Lomax, the journalist who introduced Malcolm X to the Masses - Pic Credit: valdostamuseum.com/Tullio Saba

Louis E. Lomax was a prominent author and journalist, who became the first African American to appear on television as a newsman in 1959.

Born on August 16, 1922, into a prominent Valdosta black family in Georgia, Lomax was the black journalist who introduced Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam to the masses.

He was raised by his uncle, Rev. James Louis Lomax, who was a pastor of Macedonia First Baptist Church – Valdosta’s first black church.

His grandfather Rev. Thomas A. Lomax was also a long-time pastor of Macedonia First Baptist Church.

Lomax must have gotten his flair for journalistic work from his uncle who was described by the Valdosta Times after his death in 1970 as the “Valdosta-born writer who rose from shining shoes on Patterson Street to fame in the literary world”.

Lomax graduated from Paine College in 1942 and received a master’s degree at the American University in Washington, in 1944. He obtained a master’s in philosophy from Yale in 1947.

He brought about a legacy of groundbreaking journalism by becoming one of the most influential African-American reporters and authors of his time.

Louis E. Lomax
Pic Credit: valdostamuseum.com

He started out teaching philosophy at Georgia State College (now Savannah State University); he then became a reporter for the Baltimore Afro-American and the Chicago American until 1958, after which he began producing documentaries at WNTA-TV in New York.

In 1959, Lomax brought civil rights leader Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam to the attention of Mike Wallace of CBS, host of the program Newsbeat.

At the time, the network wanted to film a documentary on the Muslim leader, but Malcolm X refused to be interviewed by white reporters.

As an African American, Lomax had rare access to the organization and he conducted interviews with the Nation’s leaders and filmed some of its events enabling him to report and broadcast Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam into millions of American households for the very first time ever.

Through the documentary “The Hate that Hate Produced”, most white people heard about the Nation of Islam, its leader, Elijah Muhammad, or Malcolm X.

The series which was nationally televised in July 1959 as a five-part series on Newsbeat, presented by Wallace and Lomax was the first time many white people had ever seen or heard of the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X and it was the first time a Black man appeared on television to report the news.

Louis Lomax interviewing Malcolm X in 1959
Louis Lomax interviewing Malcolm X in 1959 – Pic Credit: valdostamuseum.com

Lomax became a nationally recognized journalist. He hosted the Louis E. Lomax Show on KTTV of Los Angeles from 1964 to 1968, interviewing guests and holding debates on controversial topics of the time with a keen interest in achieving racial justice.

Beyond, being a journalist, Lomax was also an activist, writing novels and teaching at various universities and challenging standards of racial inequality until his death in 1970.

He was named professor of humanities and social sciences at Hofstra University in Hempstead.

He wrote a book detailing Malcolm X and his political movements titled “When the Word is Given: A Report on Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and the Black Muslim World“. His other books are “The Reluctant African” published in 1960 which won the Anisfield‐Wolf Award and “The Negro Revolt”, analysis and history of the drive for integration, in 1962.

He died aged 47 in a car crash in New Mexico leaving behind an unfinished three-volume novel chronicling the history of African-Americans.

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: February 2, 2020


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