Author Chat: Jesse Washington
Our October book of the month was a special book for so many reasons. The book, an autobiography of educator and basketball legend Coach John Thompson, was magnificently written and truly informative. It also enlightened us about a person so deeply entrenched in our memories but that we knew so little about. Lastly, it also shed light on major happenings in college and pro basketball, sports apparel, NCAA rule changes and so much more that honestly few of us in the book club knew much about.
Our book club loved the book (avg. member rating 4.75/5.0) and they loved the conversation with co author Jesse Washington even more. ICYMI check out the video replay of the conversation between co author of “I Came As A Shadow” Jesse Washington and our very own book club admin Raymond Williams on our YouTube channel. Enjoy!
Jesse Washington was born in Brooklyn to an artist father and social worker mother. His family moved to Poughkeepsie, NY, when he was in grade school, and he began his career covering sports for The Poughkeepsie Journal the summer after his freshman year at Yale University. The next summer he returned to the Journal and switched to local news. He got his first front-page byline on his 19th birthday, on a story about Louis Farrakhan’s visit to the home of Tawana Brawley.
While in college, Jesse became a DJ, pledged Kappa Alpha Psi, and played on the basketball team. He also worked for Business Week magazine, the Hartford Courant, The New York Times, and completed a summer internship with The Associated Press. He started a reporting job in AP’s Detroit bureau after graduating from Yale in 1992. A year later, Jesse transferred to AP’s national editing desk in New York City. In 1996, he became assistant bureau chief for New York City.
At the end of 1996, Jesse left AP to become managing editor of Vibe magazine. In 1998, he was named founding editor-in-chief of Blaze, a Vibe spinoff and the biggest music magazine launch ever. In the premiere issue, Jesse made news with an editorial describing how the artist Wyclef Jean threatened him with a gun over a negative album review, which Wyclef denied. Jesse was hospitalized after another confrontation with a rapper angered over his coverage. He was fired in 1998 after a dispute with the owner of the magazine, who refused to publish Jesse’s editorial about the acquittal of his friend in a high-profile Manhattan murder case.
Next, Jesse started a company with his father that published two coffee-table books, on the black artists Romare Bearden and Elizabeth Catlett. He co-founded the street basketball magazine Bounce and wrote eight cover stories for the Houston Press. In 2003, Jesse returned to the AP as Entertainment Editor, supervising a team in New York and Los Angeles covering film, television, music and celebrities. He made news in that position due to an experimental story describing how AP tried not to publish anything about Paris Hilton for one week, and again when news leaked that AP had prepared an obituary for Britney Spears.
Jesse’s novel, Black Will Shoot, was published in 2008. Later that year — three months before the election of the first black president — he began covering race for AP. Since 2015, Jesse has been a senior writer for ESPN’s The Undefeated, a platform for exploring the intersections of race, sports and culture. He is co-author of the autobiography of former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson, I Came As A Shadow, published in 2020 by Henry Holt. Jesse has won a National Journalism Award from the Asian-American Journalists Association, Journalist of the Year award from the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, two feature awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, and a 2019 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 award for column writing.