Author Ethan Michaeli Joins Team as Senior Advisor

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Executive Director

I am proud to welcome a new colleague to the Goldin Institute, Ethan Michaeli, as a Senior Advisor for Communications and Development. Ethan is an award-winning investigative journalist, educator and former executive director of a not-for-profit organization in Chicago that focused on citizen journalism.

Most recently, Ethan is the author of “The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America,” named a best book of 2016 by The New York Times, The Washington Post and Amazon, and praised by Brent Staples of The New York Times as “a towering achievement that will not be soon forgotten.”

“I feel honored to be asked to contribute to the work of the Goldin Institute, who have created a uniquely ethical and effective model for collaborating with grassroots organizations around the world. Goldin’s partners in marginalized communities around the world have stories that need to be heard. I plan to help amplify these voices through our own media as well as through traditional outlets.”

- Ethan Michaeli, Senior Advisor

Ethan Michaeli in September with retired Judge Nathaniel Jones and Sean Rugless, board member of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, OH.

Ethan’s book, “The Defender,” is the first comprehensive history of the newspaper, which was founded in 1905 and developed a national reputation by investigating lynching and other abuses of the Jim Crow segregation system. As a national communications vehicle for Black America, The Defender fostered the Great Migration of millions of African Americans from the South to the cities of the North, negotiated the integration of the U.S. Armed Forces, and primed the pump for the civil rights movement.

Ethan was inspired to write “The Defender” by his own tenure as a copy editor and reporter at the newspaper from 1991 to 1996, when he covered criminal justice, politics, environmental issues and public housing. At the time, the newspaper was still owned by John H. Sengstacke, nephew of the founder, who had engaged with presidents going back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and remained an influential figure in city politics. Many other legendary staff members were still there too, reporters who had covered the murder of Emmett Till and the 1963 March on Washington as well as the entertainment editor who had discovered the Jackson 5. Ethan was transformed by the experience, gaining a new understanding of race in America and the essential role of media in a democratic society.

After five and one half years, Ethan left The Defender to found Residents’ Journal, a magazine written and produced by the tenants of Chicago’s public housing developments, and an affiliated not-for-profit organization, We The People Media. The high-rise public housing complexes, Cabrini Green, Robert Taylor Homes and many others, were internationally infamous as places that concentrated poverty and criminality, but beyond the public perception, the reality was that the developments were an important source of affordable housing for the city’s low-income African American families, mainly women with young children living on incomes of less than $10,000 per year. With a staff of full-time and freelance writers, editors and photographers drawn from the tenant population, Residents’ Journal chronicled the final years of the high-rises from the perspective of those who lived there.

In 19 years of operation, more than 5,000 adults and youths received training and employment through Residents’ Journal/We The People Media’s journalism programs, which won grants from national foundations including the Ford Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as well as national awards for its investigative journalism, including the 2006 Studs Terkel Award.

In addition to “The Defender,” Ethan’s work has been published by Atlantic Magazine, Oxford University Press, the Nation, the Forward, In These Times and the Chicago Tribune, among other venues. His next book, “Twelve Tribes: Promise and Peril in the New Israel,” will be published by Custom House Books in 2019.

A native of Rochester, NY, Ethan earned a degree in English Language and Literature from the College at the University of Chicago in 1989. Ethan served as a member of the part-time journalism faculty at Columbia College Chicago from 1995-2002.

Ethan plans to use his writing skills and experience in the world of philanthropy to help the Goldin Institute broadcast the accomplishments of our partners, enhance our public profile, and expand programming.

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