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BLACK, RUBY AURORA

BLACK, RUBY AURORA (1896–1957). Ruby Aurora Black, journalist and biographer of Eleanor Roosevelt, was born on September 14, 1896, in Thornton, Texas, the daughter of George Washington and Cornelia (Long) Black. Her father, a cotton farmer and politician who served a term in the Texas legislature and was the mayor of Thornton, encouraged an interest in politics in his daughter. Ruby attended Sweetwater High School and the University of Colorado, then entered the University of Texas in 1913, but a series of schoolteaching and newspaper jobs prevented her from graduating until 1921. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa. As an undergraduate, she was a reporter for the student newspaper, the Daily Texan, and later became its first female editor in chief. She was president of the Sidney Lanier Literary Society, and her prominent participation in writing, editing, and campus life earned her the sobriquet "the Colonel House of varsity politics" in the university yearbook.

Her first newspaper job was for the Thornton Hustler in 1917, for which she set type, sold advertising, addressed delivery wrappers, and wrote news stories, editorials, and columns. While she was there she became the local leader of supporters for Gov. William P. Hobby in his reelection bid against former governor James E. Ferguson, though her editor supported Ferguson. After graduating from college she moved to Chicago to manage the Women's National Journalistic Register, a placement bureau sponsored by the journalism society Theta Sigma Phi. From 1921 to 1923 she taught journalism and completed two years of graduate study in economics and related fields at the University of Wisconsin. In September 1922 she married Herbert Little, a reporter for the United Press syndicate, and the couple moved to St. Louis, where Ruby became the St. Louis Times's labor editor. In 1924 Little's work took them to Washington, D.C., where Ruby found employment difficult to secure. Eventually, she established the Ruby A. Black News Bureau in 1928 and with fewer than five reporters provided news service to approximately twenty papers in Puerto Rico and seven states, including Texas.

A tiny, short-haired woman who was once mistaken for a boy, Ruby Black found that some of her most difficult work was convincing others that a woman could be a good journalist. "The toughest part of a woman's work in Washington journalism," she once said, "is to get a job." She joined the National Woman's Party, the Birth Control League, the Society of Women Geographers, and the Woman's National Press Club, of which she was later president. She also edited Equal Rights Magazine and received national attention for her dispute with the United States Department of State to allow her to use her birth name on her passport. She is regarded as the first woman to win such permission. She was also a member of the Texas Folklore Society and national president of Theta Sigma Phi.

Ruby Black became a White House correspondent for United Press in 1933 and covered Eleanor Roosevelt's activities for the next seven years. Her biography of Roosevelt appeared in 1940 and won the National Headliner award from Theta Sigma Phi in 1941. Researching and writing the book consumed so much of her time and finances that she gave up her news bureau to finish it. "I'm busted," she said when it was over. She then went to work as an information specialist for the Office of Inter-American Affairs, where she pursued her interests in Latin America and served as a liaison to the White House. She retired in ill health, perhaps suffering from epilepsy, in 1947. She and Little were divorced in 1955; the couple had one daughter. Ruby Black died on December 15, 1957, in Washington, the victim of a fire, possibly caused by a cigarette.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Alcalde (magazine of the Ex-Students' Association of the University of Texas), March 1941. Ruby A. Black Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington. Washington Post, December 16, 1957. Who Was Who in America, Vol.3.

Nancy Baker Jones

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Nancy Baker Jones, "BLACK, RUBY AURORA," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbl61), accessed October 30, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.