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Two Books Every Mizzou Student Should Read

By Lee Eigner

My Life in Black and White: Race and Power At the New York Times
by Gerald M. Boyd

My Times in Black and White book cover

Gerald M. Boyd was a University of Missouri alum and the first black managing editor for the New York Times. Mr. Boyd’s memoir My Life in Black and White tells the story of a man forged from a troubled and trying life. Born into immense poverty, Boyd was raised by his grandmother after his mother died and his father abandoned him. Mr. Boyd found solace in the joys of journalism and after high school he received a full scholarship to the University of Missouri. At Mizzou Mr. Boyd worked for the still circulating Maneater, though he would eventually leave it to begin a newspaper for African Americans. Upon graduation Mr. Boyd worked for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and then moved onto the New York Times. Though he found great success and fame at the Times, including six Pulitzer prizes for his coverage of the 9/11 aftermath, Mr. Boyd’s legacy would be forever tainted by his ill-fated association with New York Times journalist Jayson Blair. Blair infamously was accused of plagiarism and journalistic fraud and Mr. Boyd was accused of mentoring Blair and helping him move up in the professional world. Mr. Boyd denied these claims and noted that this was a very low point in his life, that there was no evidence to suggest this. Boyd said that it was because both men were black that this inference was drawn, and throughout the memoir Mr. Boyd notes that race had played a role in almost every part of his life and professional career.

Mr. Boyd discusses how race shaped his experience at the New York Times; from peers who slighted him for his race to white subordinates who verbally expressed their detest to taking orders from a black man. However it was the racism and prejudice that Boyd faced at Mizzou that resonated with me. Mr. Boyd said that it was as though black students at the time had to operate as a student body within a student body, that ignorance and prejudice had divided the students. Today the University of Missouri has certainly come far in terms of racial equality and tolerance, but not far enough. It is evident that racism still holds its grip around a portion of the student body; during Black History Month in 2010 there were cotton balls thrown around the black culture center and during Black History Month in 2011 there was a racist slur spray painted on a sculpture outside one of the Missouri dormitories. However it does not take a hate crime for this issue to reveal itself, and it saddens me that to this day racism is a lingering issue at Mizzou and that we have students that feel alienated by their peers. It does not just apply to African Americans however, almost every minority is familiar with the bitter taste of racial intolerance at the University of Missouri. This is not to say that everyone at the university who is white is racist, however there has been a staggering amount of indifference growing within the Mizzou community when it comes to political correctness and/or racial tolerance. If there was anything that Gerald M. Boyd’s memoir made me feel, it was that the existence of racial divisions in an institution for higher learning was unacceptable. Any Mizzou student who reads this book will not only read an emotional story from a famous Alumni, but will also be compelled to end the indifference towards racism that is a plague upon the University of Missouri.

The Wrong Stuff: The Extraordinary Saga of Randy “Duke” Cunningham
by Marcus Stern, Jerry Kammer, Dean Calbreath and George E Condon Jr.

Randall ‘Duke’ Cunningham is a Mizzou alumni, one of the most highly decorated Navy pilots from the Vietnam War and also one of the most corrupt politicians to ever hold a seat in the House of Representatives. After graduating from the University of Missouri with a Masters in Education in 1965, Cunningham worked as a physical education coach until he joined the Navy in 1967. It was as a F-4 Phantom pilot and Navy Ace in Vietnam that Cunningham gained fame and consequently gained his greed. He returned to America and received parades in his honor, and was even awarded the Navy Cross (though he wanted to ‘hold-out’ for the Medal of Honor because of its lifetime stipend). Cunningham rode this fame into the House of Representatives, where he accepted millions of dollars in bribes, in exchange for tens of millions of dollars that had been specifically designated for essential post-9/11 contracts. This book is a fantastic look at how one of America’s most beloved war heroes used both his government and his fame to get rich, and how wrapping himself in the flag allowed him to create the illusion of patriotism while betraying his country.

Lee Eigner attends the University of Missouri where he’s double majoring in Mass Media Communications and Film Studies.

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