Intriguing stories of Black history unfold all year long in this New York Times series

For our Creative Excellence series, Droga5 New York Creative Director Haywood Watkins III discusses his work on 'Black History, Continued'

Published On
Feb 10, 2022
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Editor's Pick

Continuing the inspiring stories in our Black History Month Celebration of Creative Excellence, today we have Haywood Watkins III, creative director at Droga5 New York.

A valedictorian of VCU Brandcenter, Watkins was also founder of ADCOLOR Futures and a former WPP Fellow. Prior to arriving at Droga5 New York, Watkins was a creative director at The New York Times and before that, he worked as a copywriter at Virtue Nordic. That was just one of the many experiences he has had around the globe, working in cities including Melbourne, London, Rio and Copenhagen. 

“If a brand needs big, brave, talk-worthy ideas, then the person they need is Haywood,” said this week’s guest editor Vida Cornelious, VP of creative at the New York Times. “He is one of the most forward-thinking creatives I've had the pleasure of having on my team. Always expanding the client's possibilities with his innovative approaches and passion for insightful strategy, he doesn't need to think outside the box because he doesn't see the box. And that is what makes him and his work amazing.”

Here, Watkins shares a project from his time at The New York Times, an idea that takes celebrating Black history to an impressive and profound new level. 

Haywood Watkins III

With “The Black Book” by Toni Morrison and Middleton A. Harris as its blueprint, “Black History, Continued,” The New York Times' year-long editorial and virtual event series explored pivotal moments and transformative figures in Black culture.

The column included articles such as “What the Tulsa Race Massacre Destroyed,” “Black Surfers Reclaim Their Place On The Waves” and “Do We Ask Too Much of Our Heroes,” while the virtual events hosted Nikki Giovanni, Questlove, Alexis Nikole Nelson, Nicole Hannah-Jones, and many more. This project was led by Veronica Chambers and Dodai Stewart with contributions from several desks across The New York Times newsroom including Culture, National, Sports and Styles.

NYTimes surf

Though “Black History, Continued” launched February 2021, its genesis dates back to the '90s when a grade school student (me) wondered: “Why does the poster of Martin Luther King Jr. come down on March 1st?”

Fast forward to the summer of 2020 and I’m now a creative director at The New York Times. As I watched another racial reckoning unfold in America, I knew the professional result could be a Black History Month brief from a brand that was eager to say something before they had done anything. So, instead of waiting for an unmerited brief, I recalled my childhood question and jotted down a simple thought: Black History Year.

NYT heroes

I ran the idea of a dedicated New York Times column for Black history that would continue beyond February to Guy Griggs, head of industry—financial Services and Meredith Levien, chief executive officer. With their blessing and support, I was able to work with the newsroom to develop the premise and potential tentpoles of the project, while finding financial support from three sponsors: Ancestry, MassMutual and Starz.

If you’re looking for a place to start your Black History Month reading, may I suggest “Black History, Continued.” Just make sure to keep reading after the 28th.