Peggy Ann Dye

January 4, 1943- December 4, 2007

By Mark Bloch with help from Susan Spencer Smith, Val Marie Johnson, Priscilla Ruth MacDougall Frances Goldin, Shelton Walden, and many others. More contributors are welcome! Photo of Peggy in 2007 © 2007 Marilyn Nance.

Peggy Dye 2007This is a draft of a bio on Peggy Dye’s life and is in no way to be considered accurate or complete. Please contribute your own contributions and corrections by writing to panman <at>

Peggy Ann Dye was born January 4, 1943 in Texas. Her father William Dye was in the Army and her mother, Alice, followed him to whatever base was there. “She grew up in Evanston, Illinois in the Black ghetto. Through her mother's dedicated efforts Peggy went through the all white schools from first grade - always the only Black child,” said her friend Susan Spencer Smith. “She said the way she coped was to be best in class and always help the other students with their work. The ‘good Negro.’ She had friends, but I believe she told me she was never invited to the white children's homes for birthday parties, with maybe one exception.”

“I cannot remember Peggy's mother's name. She was very beautiful. I've seen photos. Very stylish (Peggy always talked about this) and died young,” her friend Val Marie Johnson said of Peggy’s mother, Alice. “Peggy always spoke of her in the most loving way. Her mother was daring for her time. For example, she insisted that Peggy travel across town in Evanston, to a good mixed-race public school for the quality of the education that she would receive there, and she resisted the authority of her husband, Peggy's father, by working outside the home despite his displeasure. Peggy was estranged from her father, and was not really in touch with him in the time that I knew her, even when he was sick and dying.... Peggy did not have any siblings. The mother may have had a sister but I cannot remember clearly.”

Val Marie Johnson spoke about Peggy’s life long relationship with her godfather A.V., “I am not sure what their exact relation was except that she called him her Godfather, and adored him. He sent her care packages the whole time that I knew her, mostly sweets, candy, chocolate, jams, toys for her beloved cats Columbus and Christmas.”

“Peggy did not go to Dewey Elementary.” said Priscilla Ruth MacDougall, her childhood friend from Junior High. “She was living on Leland (where Les used to live before he and Vera integrated Skokie). She took a city bus to Central School on Main Street.”

“At 16, she she was elected president of her class, but the superintendent, ‘Doctor’ Michaels, called her mother and told her it was not ‘time’ for a ‘colored’ to be head of a senior class. Peggy’s mother was on the school board.”

Both her recollections of traveling by bus to Elementary School and the Class President episode were recorded by Peggy in powerful pieces of writing.

“Where Peggy went to elementary school would determine whether she went to Haven or Nichols. Of course, maybe some special arrangement was made. Haven was a bastion of north Evanston WASPs. Very conservative. We were assigned to either Nichols (south) or Haven (north) Jr. High Schools. Otherwise, she would gone to Foster, the all black school. Peggy later moved and then lived right next to the high school, on Pitner.”

She met MacDougall at Nichols Jr. High School, an integrated school across town, in 7th grade, i.e., the l955-56 school year.

“She got a full scholarship to Vassar College in Poughkepsie, N. Y. where she graduated in 1965 as a history major -- French Revolution her area of concentration," said Spencer, "She was told by the Dean of Students when she first entered that there was a Black girl in each class (a total of 4 in the college) so the white girls could have the experience of knowing a Negro!” Val Marie continues the story:” Peggy was always ambivalent around her relationship with it as an institution (and the people who epitomized it) for obvious reasons given who she was, what she came from, and what she believed in politically. I'm sure she also experienced racism there. However, she was also very proud of her scholarship, of her degree from there and how it prepared her for work and life, etc., and rightly so. It was a BIG deal for a young working-class black woman from Evanston , Illinois to get a full scholarship to one of the best women's universities in the country: a BIG DEAL.”

In 1999 Peggy Dye wrote “ I asked my advisor Donald Olsen if I could major in the study of modern African revolutions. He said there was not sufficient history to allow such an undertaking. ‘Better to study the mother of all revolutions—The French’ … I gained a philosphical and historical feel for the rebellion and for the people and the energy and the payoff possible when one dares to risk a bold shift against intolerable repression.” In 1965, Peggy Dye got her Bachelor of Arts degree from Vassar College, with a specialty in European history, and the French Revolution.

As a student or slightly thereafter she worked in the Office of United States Senator Paul Douglas from Illinois, in Washington, D. C. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once described Douglas as "the greatest of all the Senators". Douglas was a passionate crusader for civil rights but he earned his greatest fame as an opponent of pork barrel spending.

Peggy’s mother Alice died in a car accident the first semester, maybe even the first month, that 18 year old Peggy was at Vassar. “She was in a car accident on Church and Pitner according to her godfather,” MacDougall said, “her driver was turning left and someone banged into the right side, the passenger side, killing Peggy’s mother."

“Her father’s name was William,” MacDougall continued. “He remarried but Peggy had little to do with him. He is now deceased as is his second wife Louise. Apparently there were some kids of the second marriage, but Peggy was not involved in that family at all.”

In 1966 or so Peggy moved to Manhattan and did a brief stint in the Trade Division of McGraw-Hill, Inc, her first job in New York.

"After graduating she went to NYC and worked first in publishing and I believe that is when she met George Moberg her husband of 25 years,” Susan Spencer Smith tells us. “George was from Sweden and eventually got a PhD or and EdD (not sure) from Columbia. They traveled and lived abroad -- Puerto Rico, Sweden, Soviet Union and maybe others. She and George divorced sometime in the 1990s -- I forget the exact year, because they were separated for maybe 3 years before the divorce.”

“Said one of her friends who asked to remain anonymous, “I met Peggy in 1994 or 1995 in a room one day soon after George left her.... She did NOT speak fondly of him, their relationship, or how it ended....They lived interesting places together... that is the only real positive way that I remember her speaking about him. Peggy was reborn after their relationship ended. “

Her friend Val Marie Johnson said, “Peggy had a pair of black leather pants. She loved them. They represented her rebirth after her marriage, her affirmation of her own passion and attractiveness, her playfulness. She always told me when she was wearing them out. I think that kind of fashion daring also reminded her very much of her mother, and she loved that.”

George Moberg was Swedish and the relationship was not bad for a long while.” MacDougall rembered, “Peggy used to write as Peggy Dye Moberg, but changed back to Peggy Dye at some point. She came to my naming rights workshop at the Women and Law Conference in Boston in, I think l981, and maybe that had an influence. About six months ago Peggy went into a great deal of detail about him with me, but I confess to not really remembering much. She mentioned the alcohol.”

One of the good things about Peggy’s marriage to Moberg was that he may have been the catapult that led her to change her life in a way that benefited others as much as it benefited her over the years. She began to seek a spiritual solution to her situation, interacting with people of all kinds for decades, undertaking anything that might restore boundaries that had been violated, and a self-acceptance that had been shaken, making important lifelong friends and working with fellow travelers to restore her sanity after a confusing run with not only her husband but also with her memories of her father who was a very stern and sometimes difficult presence in her life. He had transplanted himself from the South, worked for the post office and navigated the world in a way that instilled in his daughter an inner voice of disapproval which she was determined throughout the rest of her life to re-program. In addition to the political communities she would eventually work with, the end of her marriage led to working with spiritual communities that were not as much focused on societal healing but on individual recovery from fear.

 This passage from her writing speaks to a mindset she eventually had to overcome.

“I met my husband to be with this girdle of intellectual passion boiling and with no place to go in mid°60s New York City at a boring job. "Where do you work," he said, in the taxi we were sharing home from my best friend's house.

"At McGraw Hill—in the trade book department." I murmured.

“An editor?" He smiled. He had a snaggle tooth in. front and thin, pale lips on a blonde thin face.

“Assistant' I said even softer.” I was, in truth, an editorial secretary to an editor who drank his lunch. I read manuscripts, wrote rejections and reviews, answered phones, did my boss' expense reports and dreamed of escape. I made $85 a week in 1965, and my rent was $201, so more than half my income went to rent. I couldn't make ends meet, had joined the credit union of the company of the company to afford food and was angry and ashamed, I was a Vassar graduate who had gained a respectable job in New York City and yet I couldn't afford my life. I had expected to do better than my parents. My father in fact, had said, leaving me after graduation to come to New York by train while he drove back to Chicago over Canada, "Well, now, I suppose you will become a big shot in New York, what with your degree. Don't forget your daddy 9 now and send me a few dollars, heh heh heh."

I lived in the delusion that I should be able. The delusion covered the hurt that I couldn't and that I didn't have a parent to go to.

I looked at the Swede in the taxi I was sharing and saw that he had lines under his eyes and looked hangdog out of them. He was older He had suffered. Maybe I could talk to him.”

Peggy’s friends, in the passages about her marriage above, sound impressed by the exotic places she and George traveled to together, but you may have noticed they did not agree on what those places were. One place they definitely did go, however, was Puerto Rico and their move there took place shortly after they met and married. Years later, Peggy wrote about their trip there as a pair of young revolutionaries:

 “In San Juan in 1966, Americans ran the hotels, offices, construction companies and banks. They hired Puerto Ricans who looked white. I arrived with my Swedish husband in late May to an island where, behind the white beaches and high-sleek steel and concrete patios of the Caribe Hilton, the jewel of resorts for modelling in the Caribbean, the talk of Americans hit me like a slap.

"The Puerto Ricans are so backwards they barely can speak decent Spanish much less English,' said Bemie Lockwood., from the English Department in the University, "Want another slice of steak., Peggy?"

For a year beginning in August 1966, she was a librarian and researcher at the Las Nereidas Montessori School, in San Juan, Puerto Rico where she organized two libraries from scratch to qualify school for state accreditation. She introduced Dewey Decimal system, reference and general library procedures, and served staff and students. The school won accreditation as the result of her work.

Some time after August 1967 she left the library and she worked as a researcher and reporter for Dorvillier Business News Agency, also in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

From 1969 to 1973 she was an economist for Construction Consulting firm McKee-Berger-Mansuelo, where she started as researcher and became head of New York economics department. There she produced construction market studies, and supervised union and material costs' monitoring in 200 cities, from New York City.

Next she became a city planner.

Her literary agent, Francis Goldin, said, “I met Peggy when she worked for City Planning and was assigned City Island, at least 25 years ago. My partner Walter Thabit (deceased 2-1/2 years ago) for 45 years was a leading advocate planner who is iconic for his devotion to rebuilding communities for the people who lived there. Walter admired her, and mentored her."

“I wish I knew more details about her whistle blowing. Perhaps Walter did, but he is gone now for 2-1/2 years. I know she loved the job and was completely devoted to it. As Walter was. That's why he didn't last with the city as his boss - he was too honest, as was Peggy, and that's why they clicked in their professional lives. Walter was the country's preeminent city planner, but he would only "plan" for people and communities, not for corporations. Two great people gone, more's the pity. Peggy sure didn't 'toe the line' when she worked on City Island, and that's why they removed her from that assignment. That's all I know about it, alas.”

Shelton Walden, a radio host on WBAI and friend said, “I know she worked for City Planning here in NYC and she later worked for the Coalition for the Homeless. She was fired from City Planing when she got too close to uncovering some misdeeds.”

“She eventually got a job as a City Planner for NYC,” said Susan Spencer, “and did that for a number of years -- how many I don't know. She was fired as a whistle-blower over some corrupt scheme to do with City Island. The details of which I forget.”

Val Marie Johnson shares, “I am not very good on remembering details on her city planning days, but I know that she felt that it was part of her early education on New York City politics and economics, particularly with regard to corruption and power.”

The facts are from 1973 -1982 she worked for the New York City Planning Department as a city economic planner in the Economic Development and Planning Division. She started as assistant construction planner and became chief commercial leisure and tourism planner.

The way Peggy described the controversy on her resume was: "Led community organizing fight, begun in 1981, to stop City Island gentrification and save boatyards."

In her job, among other things she “designed, managed, and analyzed surveys of corporations in leisure, tourism, construction, real estate, and finance; created economic profiles of contractors, developers, and corporate investors on government projects; evaluated sites and economic viability of proposals for New York City theme parks, entertainment centers, and legalized casinos” and finally “analyzed developments in the leisure industry, including new markets, new corporate entries, acquisitions, and failures.”

For the rest of her life Peggy Dye was a freelancer but her last staff position from 1986 -1988 was as an Associate Editor, Writer, and Investigative Reporter for the award-winning monthly magazine of the National Union of Health Care and Hospital Employees, "1199 NEWS." Topics and causes she tackled there ranged from health care under war conditions to the humane treatment of AIDS patients workshops to mobilizing support for the homeless stateside to solidarity work in Central America.

In 1988, while there, she won First Prize, Best Writing Award, 1988, NY Metropolitan Labor Press Council (for 1199 News) for research and writing feature on the working homeless. She was also singled out for articles on nursing home industry.

She began to describe herself, starting in 1982, as a freelance independent writer/organizer /public affairs consultant and did self-described investigative reports, features, research, personality profiles, political columns, foreign reporting, book reviews, short stories, personality profiles, columns, radio talk-shows, labor-union public relations, political muckraking, columns and interviews, and war correspondence.

Her clients in these endeavors included: The New York Times, Newsday, The Village Voice, Essence Magazine, City Limits (a planning/housing magazine), Catalyst (Literary) Magazine, The Corporate Campaign, Inc., (P-9 Hormel meatpackers), Metropolitan Reference/Research Library Agency, Fairfleld County Advocate of Bridgeport, CT., and District 37 and Local 375 (Architects, Engineers and Planners) of New York City.

She also described it as “twenty five years of writing and speaking and organizing projects, creating stories from the underclasses, city planning, contemporary history and journalism, organizing for people taking risks for social change. I write fiction and non-fiction stories about characters taking risks to be themselves, including confronting governments, wars, and all kinds of challenges."

Here are some of her most notable accomplishments:

As a war correspondent. In the Western Sahara, in 1986, she rode to war frontlines in Africa with the Polisario rebels to break an information block on the little-known war for democracy in Western Sahara war against Morocco, and brought home in 1987, an eyewitness account for a cover story (second section) in the American daily Newsday, May 12, 1987.

In 1987, for the Migration Secretariat, World Council of Churches, she edited the dossier, Migrant Women Claim Their Rights: Nairobi and After, selections of testimony by migrant women from eight countries, at the Decade of Women Conference in Kenya, July 1986.

In August 1987, for both Newsday and for 1199 NEWS, she travelled to El Salvador, and wrote a dramatic eye-witness account of hospital strike in midst of El Salvador's civil war, visited El Salvador's hospital workers and other unions of 40,000 workers, all on strike, and reported on army storming of hospitals, death squad activities, and other terror.

Starting in 1989, she investigated, simplified, and transformed government documents into stories for the Village Voice about plans to raze Harlem's landmark Audubon Ballroom, where Malcom X was assassinated, for a bio-tech research park. Generated wide public involvement in planning process, until 1991. On this topic she wrote two important articles for the Village Voice including, "The Night the Grassroots Got Away", Village Voice, September 18, 1990, p. 9. She also wrote "Harlem Faces the Vulture Culture", in Z Magazine, February 1992, pp. 55-59 and "Fight Goes on For Audubon," The New York Times, January 3, 1991.

She persuaded the elusive widow of Malcolm X, Dr. Betty Shabazz, to be interviewed 19 years after her last major interviews (in Look and Ebony) a first step towards a book in 1989. The Shabazz interview was supported by The Dick Goldensohn Fund Grant for research and interviewing in 1987. She also received a fellowship for non-fiction writing in 1990 from the prestigious New York Foundation on Arts.

She was a semi-finalist for the the Heekin Literary Award, for fiction in 1993.

She was awarded a residency at Edna St. Vincent Millay Colony for Artists in April 1993.

"My first fiction short story published in a book," she remembered, regarding her short stories "The Alley" and "Words for Journey Under Siege" for an anthology chronicaling black people's stories of migration north Up South (M. Adero, New Press), 1993. The "Words" article was later reprinted in Catalyst Magazine Nov-Dec 1993 issue.

Since 1982, she wrote columns and interviews of New Yorkers seeking solutions to racism, voter apathy, fiscal crises, and other social challenges. This segued into work in the early 90s as a community organizer, working with various groups including the Community Service Society (CSS).

As a Community Advocate she organized and advocacy campaign by Harlem community to restore and expand public library services in face of threatened cuts. She created written materials and a permanent grass-roots lobbying group which won a grant. She organized a drive with the CSS, in 1991, to save the George Bruce Library in Harlem including raising 1250 petitions plus creating a rally and press conference that gained important media coverage.

She initiated collaborations between CSS and Pacifica radio station WBAI that resulted in radio specials. She also worked as a freelancer for NBC at one point in her life but she was skeptical of the major media and preferred the independence of WBAI and she was a big supporter of and listener to that station.

1990-1991 she worked on the WBAI "Emanations" talk show, Shelton Walden, host of Walden's Pond said, "Part of Peggy's story that is that she was a producer at WBAI radio for a brief time in the 1990's - she appeared on my show several times and filled in for me at least once."

She wrote and produced WBAI Radio special "Mississippi Joins New York" to help introduce The Algebra Project, a new curriculum inspired by 1960's Civil Rights Movement, into New York City. the Project won grant and other help due to her influence.

She created workshops, pamphlets, and other networking activities, since 1991, to inspire advocacy skills among librarians and Harlem supporters.

She did political outreach to mobilize uptown communities for a fuller voice in elections, schools, and libraries; created leaflets, press releases, radio-talk shows, rally planning and publicity, petition and voter registration drives. She produced 10,000 registered voters and got library services expanded rather than cut in the process.

Her articles for the Village Voice flowed into her being a founding member, in 1990, of the "Save the Audubon Coalition," to stop Harlem gentrification and hazardous biotech project and instead restore a landmark for youth.

Also in 1990 in a freelance gig for Readers' Catalogue (Random House), 1990, a mail-order book store, she chose books and wrote short reviews to sell readers on black history, Vietnam, and modern guerrilla warfare.

Susan Spencer concluded, “Her last job was as consultant for the Brooklyn Public Library which she did until shortly before her first surgery in 2005.”

Indeed, toward the end of her short life Peggy worked for Brooklyn Public Library--in charge of the Friends of the Library. She edited a monthly news letter for them. She also travelled to Philadelphia and elsewhere to speak on the importance of creating Friends groups for libraries.

She did educational speaking throughout her life for colleges and popular audiences. Some of her speaking engagements included: Vassar College History Retrospective; Writer-In-Residence at University of Illinois, (Writing/Lecturing) at University of Illinois, Urbana. IL, 1988; New York University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology Goddard College Institute of Social Ecology Borough of Manhattan Community College; Garden City High School (Long Island); University of Puerto Rico; and Romance Writers Workshops; and Write for Your Life Workshops.

Peggy Dye, at one time or another, was a member of the following organizations: National Writers Union, National Alliance of Third World Journalists, Harlem Renaissance Writers, Vassar Black Alumnae Association, Friend of the George Bruce Library, Board of NYC Algebra Project, Black Planners Association.

Peggy Dye was loved by many many people, too numerous to mention. Many of them helped her immensely when she learned she was sick. In addition to the people mentioned above, her friends Marilyn Miller, Marilyn Nance, Loretta O'Sullivan and Michelle Lodge helped immensely. There are so many others and at a memorial for Peggy March 8, 2008, there will be ample time to remember Peggy, add to this biography and to salute these wonderful friends of hers that she valued deeply.

As the cancer that took her life slowly took hold, Peggy was hard at work, as she was prior to her illness for many years, one a novel Country Negro Spy and she finished her proposal for that book before entering Sloan Kettering for the last time in the fall of 2007. Peggy Dye went to sleep at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, NY on Thanksgiving evening 2007 after a happy day spent with friends and never woke up. She passed away peacefully on December 4 at 11:30 pm.

This is a draft of a bio on Peggy Dye’s life and is not to be considered absolutely accurate or complete. PLEASE contribute your own contributions and corrections by writing to panman <at>