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AP pair raises awareness of overlooked Atlanta Race Massacre

A detail from the Oct. 14, 1906 cover of the French magazine Le Petit Parisien, from a drawing titled “Massacre of Negroes through the Streets of Atlanta.” (Courtesy Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center via AP)

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AP journalists Michael Warren and Sharon Johnson delivered a distinctive enterprise package, shining light on the little-recognized 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre.

Warren, an Atlanta desk editor who also writes and edits for the AP’s Race and Ethnicity Team, has a passion and eye for history, particularly overlooked events related to race. He teamed up with multiformat colleague Sharon Johnson to develop a piece about the massacre, which involved the killings of at least 25 Black people and the destruction of Black-owned businesses.

Through diligent source development and reporting,the pair revealed the horrific details: Innocent Black men and women were pulled from trolleys,shot in their workplaces,chased through the streets and beaten to death by a mob of 10,000 white men and boys. The killings had a specific purpose: thwarting the economic success and voting power of African Americans before they could claim equal status.

Beyond raising awareness of the massacre,the journalists wanted to craft a newsworthy story relevant to the current racial reckoning in the U.S. They learned that a grassroots coalition is working to inform the public of the killings and their legacy, with events planned up to and including the massacre’s 116th anniversary in September.

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An undated photo at left shows the interior of A. F. Herndon’s Barber Shop in Atlanta, Ga. Herndon was one of Atlanta’s first Black millionaires and his shop was one of the first business to be destroyed by white mobs during the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre. At right, journalist King Williams gestures at the former site of Herndon’s shop in Atlanta, June 10, 2022. Williams gives tours describing what happened during the massacre more than a century ago. – Courtesy of Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center via AP (left); AP Photo / Sharon Johnson

Warren and Johnson also learned that more than a century later,not everyone was in favor of calling attention to the massacre. Some in the city didn’t want it brought up — it didn’t fit comfortably into Atlanta’s “cradle of the civil rights movement” narrative. The AP duo stood firm,resulting in Warren’s absorbing text story accompanied by Johnson’s video and photos.

The story’s presentation elevated the work,including a lead video clip of downtown Atlanta as it appears today, with Black women walking along the same streets where massacre victims were chased and beaten.

The package scored near the top for AP reader engagement.

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