Untold Stories

USA TODAY series shares narratives from diverse communities

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Just days before the one-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd in May, USA TODAY introduced a yearlong network project, “Never Been Told: The Lost History of People of Color.” The project is a multimedia series that seeks to “elevate, through deeply reported investigative and explanatory journalism, the people, places and ideas that are often excluded from history books,” according to a press release.

Racism and history enterprise editor Nichelle Smith, who oversees the project, explained that traditionally, the nation’s history was taught through a white perspective.

“Changing that lens, elevating stories that haven’t been elevated, reaching back and getting these stories that have been obscured by time, forgotten in time, erased—intentionally or unintentionally—that is very much our goal,” she said.  

With assistance from more than 250 Gannett local news sites in 46 states and Guam, USA TODAY will publish an in-depth story with accompanying video, historical photographs, and graphics every month.

On May 20, the series published its first story about Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was killed by an Alabama state trooper in 1965. His death sparked the Selma to Montgomery marches for Black voting rights. Written by enterprise reporter Javonte Anderson, the story includes video, historical photographs, and graphics as well as a personal column reflecting on Anderson’s time covering Jackson’s life and death.

 “It was very important for us to get it out around the pivotal moment that marked the one-year anniversary of Floyd’s murder,” Anderson told E&P. “Nichelle and I quickly saw the tragic similarities between these two gentlemen.”

Story submission is open to the USA TODAY Network, freelancers, and even to readers. The top criteria for a story to be selected is the presence of a “never been told” angle—even if the person or topic is widely known. The series will cover stories from the Latino, Asian, and Native American communities.

As readers discover this series, they may wonder why they have never heard these stories before.

“It all leads back to the beginning of things in this country, just how systems were created from the very beginning that still give us ‘The Problem We All Live With,’” Smith said, borrowing the title of Norman Rockwell’s famous painting, which was inspired by a photograph of Ruby Bridges, the first Black child to desegregate an all-white school in Louisiana in 1960, being escorted to school amidst signs of protest.

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