Leon Dash

Swanlund Chair Professor of Journalism
Professor, Center for Advanced Study
Professor, African American Studies
Research Program Professor, Center of African Studies
Professor, Institute of Government and Public Affairs
Professor, College of Law (by courtesy)


Leon Dash, Swanlund/Center for Advanced Study Professor of Journalism, African-American Studies and Law, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist with extensive experience in domestic and international reporting. Professor Dash joined the Washington Post in 1965. He took a two-year leave of absence as a Peace Corps rural high school teacher in western Kenya, 1969-1970. He returned to the Post in 1971 to an award-winning 27-year career that included twice living with and reporting on Angolan guerrillas, serving as West Africa bureau chief, and working at the newspaper’s investigative desk.

Professor Dash won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism for his series “Rosa Lee’s Story,” about a family trapped in the urban underclass that became the basis for his award-winning book, Rosa Lee: A Mother and Her Family in Urban America. He also earned an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for a documentary series and, in 1999, New York University’s journalism department selected the “Rose Lee’s Story” series as one of the best 100 works in 20th century American journalism.

Professor Dash joined the Illinois faculty as a professor in Journalism and Afro-American studies in 1998. He a Center for Advanced Study (CAS) Professor and was CAS Director 2009 -2014.

He is currently working on a book with the working title Defining Moments in Black and White, which grew out of interviews in conducted in the small black community of the nearby city Mattoon. In connection with his current book project, he is gathering nationwide the personal narratives of black and white Americans.

Follow Professor Dash on Twitter @DashDeCosta.

College of Media bio


BA Howard University
Honorary Doctor of Letters, Lincoln University, Pennsylvania