Rosa Lee: Breaking The Cycle Of Poverty

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In 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression, Rosa Lee Cunningham's grandparents and parents gave up their North Carolina sharecropping life for an uncertain journey north. Rosa Lee is the link between past and present, between a world that has disappeared and the one that her children and grandchildren face today in Washington. Her life story spans a half-century of hardship in blighted neighborhoods not far from the majestic buildings where policy-makers have largely failed in periodic efforts to break the cycle of poverty. From 1991 to 1994, Leon Dash, an investigative news reporter for The Washington Post, followed Rosa Lee Cunningham and her family to create an intimate portrait of their daily lives. Rosa Lee lived in a world defined by her poverty, illiteracy and criminal…show more content…
Although her story is discomforting and disturbing, she wanted it told. "Maybe I can help somebody not follow in my footsteps," she said. Rosa Lee Cunningham, who was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988, died in 1995. Leon Dash Leon Dash Dash's series won a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. A book based on his reporting and his subsequent friendship with Rosa Lee, "Rosa Lee: A Mother and Her Family in Urban America," has been reviewed by the Post's Book World. While the series ran in the paper, over 4,600 readers called a special response line set up by the newspaper; they both applauded and derided the story. Some callers saw the series as a unique, frightening but important look into the world of the urban poor. But others felt that it reinforced stereotypes of black Americans as criminals and welfare recipients and did not do enough to highlight the success stories of Rosa Lee's two sons who "made

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