Christopher Benson, a journalist and lawyer, is an associate professor of Journalism and African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Benson has worked as a city hall reporter in Chicago for WBMX-FM, as Washington Editor for Ebony magazine, and as a speechwriter for Washington, D.C. politicians, including former Congressman Harold Washington, and former EEOC Chair Clarence Thomas. He also has written for Chicago, Savoy, Jet, and The Crisis magazines, and has contributed to The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the Chicago Sun-Times. Most recently, he has written commentary on justice, race and media for The Chicago Reporter and the Huffington Post. His Chicago Reporter series on the wrongful murder conviction of Anthony Dansberry contributed to Dansberry’s release from prison (after serving 23 years) and earned Benson a Peter Lisagor Award for exemplary journalism. Additionally, Benson was a co-writer and associate producer of the WTTW Channel 11 documentary “Paper Trail: 100 Years of the Chicago Defender,” and was named on two of the PBS documentary’s three regional Emmy Awards, and won another Lisagor Award. Benson is co-author with Mamie Till-Mobley of Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America, the account of the 1955 lynching of Mrs. Till-Mobley’s son, Emmett Till, and the winner of the 2003 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award Special Recognition. The book has been used widely in middle schools, high schools and college courses (including those at Princeton and Brown Universities), serving as the basis for discussion of race and power in America. The Washington Post called the book “A testament to the power of the indestructible human spirit [that] speaks as eloquently as the diary of Anne Frank.” The book has been adapted as a screenplay and is in development as a major motion picture. In that connection, Professor Benson was selected as a Fellow in the 2016 Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab. In his writing, Benson focuses on the intimate personal story as a way of presenting the full context of social construction and its often-violent enforcement. His latest project is a stage adaptation of the Emmy Award-winning documentary “Inheritance” by James Moll, founding executive director of the Shoah Foundation. “Inheritance” is an extension of the “Schindler’s List” story. In the dramatic adaptation, Benson explores the dynamics of memory and forgetting, as well as the enduring effects of trauma arising in a conversation between a Holocaust survivor and the daughter of a Nazi perpetrator. It is an encounter characterized by historical overtones, contemporary resonance, and future challenge. Benson earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Journalism at the University of Illinois and his J.D. at Georgetown University. At Illinois, he has taught courses on hate crime, media law, and on media ethics and diversity, among other subjects focusing on developing a level of media literacy and critical social assessment among students. In all of his work, Benson seeks to provide the public with a critical sense of media literacy, meaningful social context, and responsibility in making enlightened decisions in our democratic society.

Load More Stories