Wickham, DeWayne 1946-
WICKHAM, DeWayne 1946-
PERSONAL: Born July 22, 1946, in Baltimore, MD; son of John T. and DeSylvia (Chase) Wickham; married Wanda Nadine Persons, June, 1987; children: Vanessa Baker, Zenita, Mikella Nicole. Education: Attended Community College of Baltimore; University of Maryland, B.A. (journalism), 1974; certificate in Afro-American studies, 1974; University of Baltimore, M.A., 1982.
ADDRESSES: Office—Gannett News Service/USA Today, 1000 Wilson Blvd, 10th Fl., Arlington, VA 22209.
CAREER: Writer, columnist, and television producer and commentator. U.S. News & World Report, Washington, DC, correspondent, 1974-75; Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, MD, reporter, 1975-78; WBAL-TV, Baltimore, talk show host, 1976-89; Gannett News Service, Arlington, VA, columnist, 1985—; USA Today, columnist, 1988—; Delaware State University, distinguished professor of journalism, 2001—; Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies, director, 2001—. University of Missouri Journalism School, Multicultural Management Program, member of advisory board, 1986-92; Howard University School of Journalism, chair, 1992-94. Military service: U.S. Air Force, 1964-68; sergeant; served during the Vietnam War; recipient of Vietnam Service Medal, and Good Conduct Medal.
MEMBER: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Association of Black Journalists (founder and president, 1987-89).
Fire at Will, USA Today Books, 1989.
Judge Not (screenplay), United Image Entertainment, 1992.
Woodholme: A Black Man's Story of Growing up Alone (memoir), Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1995.
(Editor) Thinking Black: Some of the Nation's Best Black Columnists Speak Their Minds, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 1996.
Bill Clinton and Black America, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: DeWayne Wickham is a successful journalist whose childhood tribulations are recounted in his memoir Woodholme: A Black Man's Story of Growing up Alone. Lillian Lewis wrote in Booklist that Wickham "beat tremendous odds." His family lived in Baltimore, Maryland, and when he was eight years old his father, who was unable to cope with their financial situation, shot and killed his mother, then turned the gun on himself, leaving the five children orphans. Wickham and one other sibling were raised by an aunt. Wickham paints the factual picture of the 1950s and early 1960s, during which segregation was the norm, and jobs, when blacks could find them, were low-paying and menial.
Woodholme was the all-white Jewish country club where Wickham caddied part-time while he was in high school, then full-time after he was expelled. He was highly rated and given choice assignments that earned him good money which he spent liberally on clothes and gambling with the other caddies. Paul Ruffins wrote in Washington Post Book World that "within this rigidly segregated but decent world, he learns the power and freedom of making an honest living and finds black men who give him encouragement." Wickham eventually returned to school, where he fell in love with Ruth Frederick and, at the age of eighteen, became the father of a baby girl. The book closes with Wickham joining the Air Force and promising to marry Ruth. A Publishers Weekly contributor called Woodholme "a harrowing, moving autobiographical memoir."
"This is a heartfelt, personal story," wrote Deborah Baldwin in American Journalism Review, "and while hardly transcendent, it is blissfully free of stereotypes. A Jewish shopkeeper takes slight advantage of fifteen-year-old Wickham in selling him a wardrobe on layaway, but you don't feel the pain until Wickham is ripped off by his cousin, who walks off with his new clothes shortly before the beginning of school. Another Jewish shopkeeper emerges as one of the few adults in Wickham's life who tried to make a difference."
In an African American Review article, Roland L. Williams, Jr., noted that the book includes references to important events of the early 1960s, including the 1963 March on Washington and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and that "it embodies many contemporary figures, sharply drawn with wit and wisdom, who manifest the struggles and goals of the era in black circles. … with subtlety and suspense, presented by an intelligent narrator, Woodholme could simply be enjoyed as a work of art. … [A]n encounter with the book is bound to leave the impression that you can beat waves of trouble with a little learning."
Wickham collected the writings of black journalists from around the country and published them as Thinking Black: Some of the Nation's Best Black Columnists Speak Their Minds, called "a book that will support journalism, American history, and current-events studies" by Connie Freeman in School Library Journal. The book is divided into sections on relationships, history, race, and one that includes a variety of topics. The foreword by Pamela Newkirk contains a history of black journalism going back to Freedom's Journal in 1827. Kliatt's Mary T. Gerrity called the volume "a provocative collection that will capture the attention of blacks and whites alike." "The book presents a good mix of voices on subjects personal and political," said a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
Most of the contributors to Thinking Black are not syndicated, and many write about subjects they do not normally cover in their columns: ghetto drug dealers, race identity, history, contemporary social issues, and politics. Booklist's Bonnie Smothers described as "hilarious" Norman Lockman's "Black and Brazen," a commentary on the Senate hearings on the confirmation of Joycelyn Elders as surgeon general. Smothers called Thinking Black "a potent collection."
White Americans were about evenly divided on the subject of the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, but about ninety percent of black Americans were against it. When Clinton left Washington, he established an office in the Harlem community in New York City, the cultural center of black America. In writing Bill Clinton and Black America, Wickham considers the relationship between Clinton and the black community in three ways. He uses speeches and interviews that reveal Clinton's position on black issues; provides an appendix of black appointees during the Clinton years; and includes a collection of essays by black journalists, intellectuals, and politicians. Contributors include Tom Joyner, attorney Johnnie Cochran, actor Tim Reid, NAACP president Kweisi Mfume, author Alice Randall, and civil rights activist Mary Frances Berry. Most of these essays honor Clinton for his "common touch" and forgive him his private dalliances.
In Black Issues Book Review, Robert Fleming noted several Clinton positions and policies that impacted negatively on blacks, including those regarding welfare reform, the crime bill with its "three strikes and you're out" rule, and the reversal of his support of the Lani Guinier nomination for assistant attorney general for civil rights. Fleming wrote that for readers who remember these "and other political shortcomings, this book is a bitter pill to swallow. There are a few naysayers here, however, who politely question his moral judgement and the genuineness of his commitment to African Americans. Even if this was just politics, they say, at least it made us feel wanted, loved, and respected. And that is no small thing."
Clinton visited black churches and sang hymns along with the congregations. He was praised for his appointments of blacks and for consulting with such individuals as William H. Gray, III, of the United Negro College Fund, who helped Clinton revise his Haitian refugee policy. Clinton acknowledged Africa to be the cradle of civilization and apologized for slavery. Toni Morrison noted in an essay included in Bill Clinton and Black America that "Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas," making him, in effect, our "first black president." Booklist reviewer Vanessa Bush said, "That position resonates throughout this fascinating look at American politics, racial issues, and the life of a controversial president." A Publishers Weekly writer said the book is best "when it mixes personal anecdotes … with substantive analysis." "This sampling feels honest as it offers both instinctive and intellectual appraisals of the Clinton appeal," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Library Journal reviewer Anthony J. Adam called Bill Clinton and Black America "the only major book to appear on this topic to date."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Wickham, DeWayne, Woodholme: A Black Man's Story of Growing up Alone, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1995.
African American Review, spring, 1999, Roland L. Williams, Jr., review of Woodholme: A Black Man's Story of Growing up Alone, p. 174.
American Journalism Review, July-August, 1995, Deborah Baldwin, review of Woodholme, p. 46.
Black Issues Book Review, January-February, 2002, Robert Fleming, review of Bill Clinton and Black America, p. 67.
Booklist, May 1, 1995, Lillian Lewis, review of Wood-holme, p. 1549; February 15, 1996, Bonnie Smothers, review of Thinking Black: Some of the Nation's Best Black Columnists Speak Their Minds, p. 969; December 15, 2001, Vanessa Bush, review of Bill Clinton and Black America, p. 701.
Ebony, February, 2002, p. 18.
Emerge, June, 1995, Nick Charles, review of Wood-holme, p. 62; February, 1996, Robert L. Joiner, review of Thinking Black, p. 108.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2001, review of Bill Clinton and Black America, p. 1605.
Kliatt, November, 1997, review of Thinking Black, p. 26.
Library Journal, May 1, 1995, Michael A. Lutes, review of Woodholme, p. 108; February 15, 2002, Anthony J. Adam, review of Bill Clinton and Black America, p. 165.
Los Angeles Times, June 29, 1995, Lisa Respers, "A Courageous Journey along the Road to Closure—and Success," p. E7.
Publishers Weekly, April 3, 1995, review of Wood-holme, p. 54; November 20, 1995, review of Thinking Black, p. 61; November 26, 2001, review of Bill Clinton and Black America, p. 47.
School Library Journal, February, 1997, Connie Freeman, review of Thinking Black, p. 138.
Washington Post Book World, August 20, 1995, Paul Ruffins, review of Woodholme, p. 6.*