Gwen Ifill, Gwendolyn L. Ifill

Gwen Ifill (Black Heritage series, U.S. Postal Service)

In 1999, when Gwen Ifill (1955–2016) debuted as moderator and managing editor on the PBS political affairs roundtable program Washington Week, she became the first woman of African descent to host a nationally televised public affairs program in the United States. Born Gwendolyn L. Ifill in New York City, she graduated with a bachelor's degree in communications from Simmons College (1977) in Boston, Massachusetts, the city where she began her career in journalism at the Boston Herald American. Before joining PBS, she built her career at the Baltimore Evening Sun (1981–1984), the Washington Post (1984–1991), the New York Times (1991–1994), and NBC News (1994–1999). In 2013, at PBS, she became co-managing editor and co-anchor with Judy Woodruff of the PBS NewsHour. At PBS, she moderated several presidential and vice-presidential debates, gaining a reputation for being even-handed and thoughtful, yet tough. She received several awards for her journalism, including the Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award (2006), the George Foster Peabody Award (2008), and the National Press Club's Fourth Estate Award (2015). Her book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, was published in 2009. Gwen Ifill died in Washington, D.C., on November 14, 2016, at the age of 61. In 2020, the U.S. Postal Service commemorated her life with a Forever stamp, the 43rd stamp in the USPS's Black Heritage series, which honors prominent, deceased black leaders.

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Last modified: 2 February 2020