Gerri Major was a true Renaissance Woman, holding many important duties over the course of her long life. Major was a writer, publicist, and journalist that found fame in Harlem and crafted a journalism career that spanned decades.
Born Geraldyn Hodges on July 29, 1894 in Chicago, the University of Chicago graduate had dreams of becoming a teacher. During her first marriage, she and her husband moved to Harlem where she discovered her career path while working with the local NAACP chapter in 1925. Writing a publicity announcement for the organization, Major realized she had an innate talent for words and writing.
In the early part of her career, Major worked for Black newspapers of the time such as New York Amsterdam News, The Afro-American, and the Pittsburgh Courier, as a writer and journalist.
Major took a job with the New York City Health Department’s Bureau of Public Health Information and Education as an administrative assistant in 1934. The job title was a touch misleading as reports reveal that Major was basically a publicist for the department.
Based on how she began her career and some of the tasks she took on in her 12 years with New York City Health, some refer to Major as one of the first, if not the first, Black publicists.
In the ’50’s, Major, now married to John Major, began a 25-year career with Ebony as a writer and society editor, and as an editor for Jet. Major maintained the positions up until her death in 1984, along with releasing her notable book, Gerri Major’s Black Society, which examined notable Black figures and their lives from the 1700s until the 20th Century.
Among Major’s long list of achievements are her stints as a promoter, a radio host, an announcer, and an activist. She was also a well-known Harlem socialite.
PHOTO: Carl Van Vetchen, Fair Use
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