First and foremost, George Curry was a freedom fighter, and journalism was his weapon of choice. Rather than a soldier in the marches and at the rallies, though he was there too on occasion, he fought his battles at the keyboard, maintaining a fiercely independent resolve and spirit of attack.
With his passing on Aug. 20, at age 69, in Takoma Park, Maryland, he leaves a gaping hole in the tapestry of editors and reporters who eloquently speak truth to power. George possessed a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners attitude that was in the tradition of those first black newspapers that promised to “plead our own cause.”
To some extent he could have pled that cause with mainstream white publications, which he did for a while at Sports Illustrated, where his journalistic odyssey began as the second African-American ever hired by the magazine, or at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he was a beat reporter, but George needed a platform that would give him more latitude to tackle the issues that troubled black America.
During his tenure at Emerge magazine, where he replaced Wilmer Ames as the editor-in-chief in 1993 and his two terms at the helm of National Newspaper Publishers Association, George found the ramparts to forge his own columns and deploy his writers to do battle with those topics dear to his heart and mission.
I was often one of his charges and the integrity and grit I had observed from afar became even more illuminated working under his guidance and counsel. He was a firm editor who allowed me to get the story — and to get it right without compromise or soft-pedaling.
Our last encounter was in July at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. I wasn’t surprised to see him there because this was an action venue that was right in his political bailiwick. For a moment we discussed how the effort was going to revive Emerge. He said things were going pretty good and that a good amount of money had been raised through crowdfunding.
Months before we had discussed my joining him as the project developed, and he touched on this again before we parted. “Meanwhile I want you to be my national correspondent,” he said, referring to the work I had been doing for the media outlet under his name. We both laughed when I asked him about the pay.
I was only kidding about the salary because that would have been of no concern when it came to working with him. We had been together on so many battlefronts, and to have shared a journalistic foxhole with George Curry remains among my most cherished memories.
Herb Boyd is an author, journalist and activist who teaches at the City College of New York. His forthcoming book is “Black Detroit: A People’s Struggle for Self-Determination” (Amistad, 2017). Follow him on Twitter @Simbabinski1.