Michael Powell Wins May Sidney for New York Times Story on Income Inequality in Memphis’s African-American Community
Contact: Audrey Thweatt
June 15, 2010
NEW YORK: The Sidney Hillman Foundation announced today that Michael Powell has won the May Sidney award for the May 30, 2010 New York Times story “Blacks in Memphis Lose Decades of Economic Gains,” a striking portrait of the recession’s devastating effects on the black community of Memphis. The city’s woes are a microcosm of the ills affecting African-Americans across the country.
Powell’s findings include:
Rising unemployment and growing foreclosures in the recession have combined to deplete black wealth and income and erase two decades of slow progress.
Black unemployment in Memphis, mirroring national trends, has risen to 16.9 percent from 9 percent two years ago; it stands at 5.3 percent for whites.
The overall local foreclosure rate in Memphis is roughly twice the national average.
The City of Memphis and Shelby County sued Wells Fargo late last year, asserting that the bank’s foreclosure rate in predominantly black neighborhoods was nearly seven times that of its foreclosure rate in predominantly white neighborhoods.
Sidney Award judge Charles Kaiser said, “Powell has done a brilliant job of putting a human face on the wreckage caused by the most severe recession in America since the Great Depression. His severe indictment of American banking practices includes details of how black neighborhoods were targeted for the most expensive mortgages–even when their recipients qualified for cheaper ones, which would have brought the banks smaller profits.”
Powell has been a metro reporter for The New York Times since 2007. He was part of the team that won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News for its coverage of the sex scandal that led to resignation of Governor Eliot Spitzer. Last month, he switched beats to start covering economics. Before coming to the Times, Powell was a reporter for The Washington Post, where he wrote about everything from former Washington Mayor Marion Barry to voter fraud in Ohio. In 2000, he covered the presidential campaign for the Style section of the Post, and in 2001, he became the paper’s New York correspondent. He has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize three times. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife Evelyn and their two sons, Nick and Aidan.
The Sidney Award is given once a month to an outstanding piece of socially-conscious journalism by the Sidney Hillman Foundation, which also awards the annual Hillman Prizes every spring. For more information please, click here.
Certificate designed by Edward Sorel
The Sidney is awarded monthly to a piece published in an American magazine, newspaper, on a news site, or a blog. Television and radio broadcasts by an American news outlet are also eligible, as are published photography series.
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