Whether Ernie Suggs is writing the news or writing a book, he says at the end of the day, it’s all about telling good stories. 

Suggs, a 25-year journalist at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who covers race and culture, is the author of “The Many Lives of Andrew Young.” The book is a full-color, visual biography of former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, known for his role in the Civil Rights movement and the fight for human rights. 

Ernie Suggs, author of “The Many Lives of Andrew Young”

“The Many Lives of Andrew Young” was released in March, when Young celebrated his 90th birthday. Each chapter is dedicated to a different story from Young’s life; from his encounters with the Nazi party growing up in New Orleans and the Ku Klux Klan in south Georgia to two transformational terms as mayor of Atlanta. Each chapter is full of vibrant memories. 

“He was able to kind of pinpoint that moment in his life where everything changed. With all the things that Andy Young has done, everyone forgets that he pastored a church in Thomasville, Ga., before he met Martin Luther King, Jr., before he was a UN ambassador or the mayor of Atlanta,” recalled Suggs. 

Young understands the importance of his legacy, Suggs said. On the tour, Suggs learns something from him every day. “It’s amazing to see the reaction that he gets when he’s on tour, whether it’s from Black people, white people, young, old. Everyone seems to know him. Everyone seems to respect him,” Suggs said. 

The book took about a year from conception to publication. Because Young lived such a public life, materials for the book were easily obtained. And it helped that Suggs had written about Young extensively. 

“Andy Young had a really good story to tell. And if you are a halfway decent writer, which I think I am, you figure out what the stories are and tell the stories,” Suggs said. 

Spoiler alert: Suggs is not “a halfway decent writer;” he’s an award-winning writer. He’s a Harvard University Nieman fellow. During his career with the AJC, Suggs has become a local resource and historian on the Civil Rights movement. He wrote a series on HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities) and curated Black content into a weekly newsletter called Unapologetically ATL with colleague Nedra Rhone. 

Unapologetically ATL launched in 2021 as a project to attract Black readers. 

“We still need to make sure that African Americans’ voices are heard in the paper because they play a significant role in how the city and region are taking shape. Atlanta is at the vanguard of Black culture in America,” said Suggs.  

Andrew Young and Ernie Suggs are scheduled to appear for an author talk and book-signing on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at the MJCCA Zaban Park. For more information: atlantajcc.org/bookfestival.

Logan C. Ritchie writes features and covers Brookhaven for Rough Draft Atlanta.