About the Author
When We Face the Dawn (the story of civil rights icons Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson) was published in 2018, I anticipated that the book would be my last. That thought changed in early June 2020 in the midst of nationwide protests stemming from the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The impetus was Northam’s bold and controversial announcement that he intended to take down the iconic statue of Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond. It struck me then that Northam’s evolution from the blackface scandal of 2019 to that avant-garde moment was a story worth telling.
Over the governor’s remaining year-and-a-half in office, I conducted numerous interviews with Northam, members of his administration, lawmakers, and citizens who had tracked his immersion into Black history and his growing awareness of the obstacles facing Black citizens, both historically and in the present. Over time, it became clear that this was not just Northam’s story. It was also an account of those Black Virginians who worked to educate and embolden him. And it was a primer for any person interested in deepening their understanding of the societal structures from education and housing to criminal justice and health care that contribute to race-based disparities in wealth, health, and educational achievement.
What the Eyes Can’t See, along with the Hill-Robinson book, seemed a natural culmination of my thirty-four-year immersion in Virginia politics and government, first as a statehouse reporter and then as an editorial writer for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. A focus on racial justice threaded that career, including book-length studies involving the nation’s first popularly elected black governor, the results of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a criminal justice system that sometimes crucifies innocents, and the legacy bequeathed by Robinson and Hill. The duo was part of the small, inner circle surrounding Thurgood Marshall when he headed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. For a time, they were the most significant grass-roots legal team operating in the South.
My writing and reporting career began with college internships at the Nashville Tennessean in the late 1960s. I was born in Harlan County, Kentucky; grew up in a Nashville suburb; and earned degrees from Tennessee Wesleyan College and the University of Richmond. Richmond has been home since 1978. I live here with my husband, Bob Lipper, also a retired journalist. We cherish three adult children and their families.