To help mark the release of the Black Heritage stamp honoring Gwen Ifill, here are five facts about the trailblazing journalist.
1. She was a born reporter. Ifill was the daughter of an African Methodist Episcopal minister whose natural curiosity led her into journalism. It wasn’t always easy: While serving as an intern at The Boston Herald American newspaper during college, a fellow staffer left her a note that used a racial slur and told her to go home. Ifill’s bosses were reportedly so embarrassed, they offered her a full-time job. Ifill’s talent later led her to jobs with The Washington Post, The New York Times, NBC News and PBS.
2. Ifill made history — again and again. At PBS, Ifill became the first African American woman to lead a national public affairs show when she took over as managing editor and host of “Washington Week” in 1999. Five years later, Ifill moderated a vice presidential debate, becoming the first African American woman to do so. Later, she became co-anchor of “PBS NewsHour” with Judy Woodruff — the first two-woman anchor team on a major broadcast television nightly news program.
3. She brought a unique voice to journalism. Ifill, who lived in federally subsidized housing as a child, reported on housing policy during the early years of her career, winning praise for her eye-opening stories. She also had a knack for asking questions that wouldn’t occur to others. During the 2004 vice presidential debate, she asked the participants — Vice President Dick Cheney, the Republican incumbent, and his Democratic challenger, John Edwards — what the government’s role should be in ending the AIDS epidemic among black women.
4. She received multiple honors. During her four decades in journalism, Ifill won many accolades, including a Peabody Award and a Fourth Estate Award from the National Press Club. She also received several honorary degrees and was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame.
5. Her legacy endures. In addition to being honored with a Black Heritage stamp, Simmons University, Ifill’s alma mater, opened the Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts, and Humanities following her death in 2016. Additionally, the Washington Press Club Foundation and “PBS NewsHour” created a fellowship in her name to nurture future journalists, while the Committee to Protect Journalists named the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award after her.