Dash, Leon | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Dash, Leon

Historical Note:

Leon DeCosta Dash Jr. was born March 16, 1944 in New Bedford, Massachusetts and grew up in New York City's Harlem and the Bronx. Dash is a 1968 graduate of Howard University with a BA in history.  He was a visiting professor of  political science at University of California-San Diego in 1978. He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania in 1996.  Dash was one of 44 journalists who founded the National Association of Black Journalists on December 12, 1975 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1995.  In February 2000, Dash was selected as the first Swanlund Chair Professor in Journalism and Afro-American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In August 2003, Dash was appointed as a permanent faculty member of the University of Illinois's Center for Advanced Studies. Dash first worked as a reporter at the Washington Post from 1966 to 1968. He took a two-year leave of absence and worked as a Peace Corps volunteer high school teacher in rural Kenya, in 1969 and 1970.  He returned to the Post in 1971. He lived with and reported on Angolan guerrillas on two occasions: June-September 1973 and October 1976-May 1977, and hiked 2,100 miles on foot through war-torn Angola on the second trip.  From 1979 to 1984, Dash was the Post's West Africa Bureau Chief before joining the newspaper's Investigative Desk. Dash left the Post in August 1998 to accept an appointment as a professor in Journalism and Afro-American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he teaches today.  From 1995 to 1996, Dash was a Media Fellow of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

He is co-author (with Ben Bagdikian) of The Shame of the Prisons published by Simon and Schuster in 1972. In 1989, William Morrow and Co. published Dash's book on adolescent childbearing, When Children Want Children: The Urban Crisis in Teenage Childbearing. The University of Illinois Press published the fourth edition of When Children Want Children in March 2003.   In September 1996, Basic Books of HarperCollins Publishers published Dash's Rosa Lee: A Mother and Her Family in Urban America, a book based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper series about a family trapped in the urban underclass. Plume publishers of Penguin, New York City and Profile Books of Great Britain, London published paperback editions of Rosa Lee in 1997. Dash won the George Polk Award of the Overseas Press Club and first prize in International News Reporting of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild in 1974. In 1984, Dash won the international reporting awards of Africare and the Capitol Press Club.  He received First Place in the General News Award from the National Association of Black Journalists and Distinguished Service Award from the Social Services Administration of Maryland in 1986. The following year, he won First Prize in the  Public Service Award from the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild and the First Place Award of the Investigative Reporters and Editors Organization.  Dash won the Washington Independent Writers President's Award for "excellence in reporting urban affairs" in 1989.  A PEN/Martha Albrand special citation for nonfiction work was given to Dash in 1990 for his book When Children Want Children.

In 1995, Dash and Washington Post photographer Lucian Perkins won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism. Dash also won First Prize for print journalism of the Robert F. Kennedy Book and Journalism awards the same year.  The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Washington, D. C. Chapter, awarded Dash and producer Luther Brown an Emmy in 1996 in the category of Public Affairs: Hard Issues.  He is co-winner of the Washington Monthly magazine's Political Book Award given in March 1997 for the book, Rosa Lee.  In June 1997, Dash won First Prize in the Best Book contest of the Harry Chapin Media Awards, World Hunger Year organization for Rosa Lee. In October 1997, Dash received the Prevention for a Safer Society (PASS) Award of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency for Rosa Lee. In March 1999, New York University's journalism department selected Dash's Washington Post series, Rosa Lee's Story, as one of the best 100 works in 20th-century American journalism.

Note Author: Teresa Hamilton

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