DAA 2012: Samuel F. Yette, MA’59


Samuel F. Yette, MA’59

Samuel Yette was the first black Washington correspondent for Newsweek magazine, author of a landmark book and a journalism professor at Howard University.

Yette came to Bloomington for his master’s degree in journalism. While on campus, he was associate editor of the Indiana Daily Student.

After leaving Bloomington in 1956, Yette accompanied Life magazine photojournalist Gordon Parks on a tour of the South to document segregation. Life then published their collaborative effort as a four-part series.

Yette covered the Civil Rights movement in the South for the Afro-American newspaper chain in Baltimore and Washington. That work landed him an editing position at Ebony magazine. Later, he was the first black reporter for the Dayton (Ohio) Journal-Herald. He took his journalism skills to work for the Peace Corps and later for the federal government as a special assistant for civil rights at the Office of Economic Opportunity.

Several times during his career, Yette returned to Bloomington to deliver lectures to journalism students. In 1970, he was the Riley Distinguished Professor of Journalism at Indiana University.

Yette joined Newsweek in 1968 as a correspondent. While working for Newsweek, Yette wrote The Choice: The Issue of Black Survival in America, which documented the effects of federal government policies on African Americans. Yette argued these policies could lead to genocide.

The book, published in 1971, was used as a textbook in colleges across the country. It received several awards, including the Special Book Award from the Capitol Press Club in 1971 and the Nonfiction Work of Distinction from the Black Academy of Arts and Letters in 1972.

Yette was fired from Newsweek shortly after the book’s release, an action that resulted in a seven-year wrongful dismissal lawsuit. Anticipating the firing, Yette had lined up a teaching job at Howard University’s newly created School of Communications. He taught there for 14 years.

After retiring from Howard, Yette remained active writing columns for the black press and appearing as a political commentator on Black Entertainment Television. He also served as an adviser and photographer for Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns in the 1980s. He died in 2011.