Michael Cottman - Biography  

Michael H. Cottman, an award-winning journalist and author.

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Michael H. Cottman is an award-winning journalist, author, and former political reporter for The Washington Post. His past books include Shackles From the Deep, which traces the path of a sunken slave ship and earned a starred review from Booklist and was selected as a Notable Social Studies Trade Book by the Children’s Book Council in 2018. He is also the author of The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie and Million Man March. He has appeared on National Public Radio’s Tell Me More, CNN, the History Channel, and The Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss his work. Cottman, who has received numerous awards, was also part of a reporting team that won journalism’s highest honor, the Pulitzer Prize, for Newsday’s coverage of a deadly subway crash in New York in 1992.

Michael H. Cottman, an award-winning journalist and an author with National Geographic Books.

Cottman also served as a Senior Correspondent for BlackAmericaWeb.com, a division of REACH Media/Urban One, the nation's largest black-owned media company, where he writes about race and politics, social justice, education, the shifting demographics in a multicultural society; and the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

Cottman previously covered the White House and provided commentary and political analysis about President Barack Obama, focusing primarily on how the Obama administration’s economic, education and health-care policies impacted African Americans and people of color.

A former reporter for The Washington Post, Newsday, and The Miami Herald, Cottman has received numerous awards including journalism's highest honor, the Pulitzer Prize, which he shared with a staff of reporters and editors at Newsday in 1992 for Newsday’s coverage of a deadly subway crash in New York.
Cottman is the author of seven books, including Million Man March, (Crown/Random House) the first book to chronicle the historic event, and The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie, (Crown/Random House) the story of a sunken 17th Century slave ship that sank off the coast of Florida in 1700 and Cottman’s underwater exploration of the 300-year-old vessel.

Cottman, who appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2000 to discuss his book, The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie, spent four years researching the origin of the Henrietta Marie and retraced the route of the slave ship, traveling to every port of call and scuba diving inlets where the ship anchored. He traveled to three continents to reconstruct the slaving voyages of the Henrietta Marie and, as a certified scuba diver, helped explore the remains of the vessel which yielded 20,000 artifacts, including the largest collection of slave-ship shackles ever found on one site. It is the only sunken slave ship in the United States to be scientifically documented.

Shackles From The Deep, by National Geographic Books, was published in 2017. Shackles From The Deep, an adaptation of The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie, was published for young readers 10-16 years old. The book is also featured in The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Say Their Names by National Geographic Books, was published in 2020 an incisive, gripping exploration of the forces that pushed our unjust system to its breaking point after the death of George Floyd and a definitive guide to America's present-day racial reckoning

Cottman’s latest book, Segregated Skies by National Geographic Books, was published in 2022. It was 1964 and Black men didn’t fly commercial jets. But David Harris was about to change that.






Cottman has also appeared on CNN; NPR; PBS; C-SPAN Booknotes; ABC News and CBS News affiliates, The Learning Channel, The History Channel and Al Jazeera TV.

In 2012, Cottman hosted an hour-long radio program on American University’s radio station, WAMU, called “Conversations,” a show that offered the Washington, D.C. audience interviews and insights from D.C. residents about timely national, local, and international issues.
Cottman’s interview with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for a story published in Ebony magazine, September 2014, was Holder’s last lengthy, sit-down interview before he announced his resignation as head of the U.S Department of Justice.

  • Collaborated with various teams on production, politics, metrics, breaking news, social media, commerce, MSNBC, Nightly News, THINK and LEARN. Planned weekend stories and special projects.
  • Managed annual budget for freelance journalists, paid writers and oversee monthly NBCBLK expenses.

Over the years, Cottman has provided political analysis for “The Tom Joyner Morning Show,” XM Satellite Radio, and several national Radio One stations, which are owned by radio personality Tom Joyner and businesswoman Cathy Hughes.In addition, Cottman has appeared on National Public Radio (NPR) “Tell Me More” with Michel Martin and “The Mildred Gaddis Show”in Detroit. Cottman also served as co-host for Rev. Al Sharpton’s “Keeping it Real,” a nationally-syndicated radio show.
Cottman spent his journalism career writing about politics, social trends, race, and America's expanding multi-cultural society. He has interviewed and written about some of the world's most prominent news makers, including President Barack Obama, United States Attorney General Eric Holder; White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, former South African President Nelson Mandela, the late John F. Kennedy Jr., former New York Mayors Ed Koch, David Dinkins and Rudolph Guliani, and former President Bill Clinton. 
In 2008, Cottman covered Barack Obama’s historic presidential campaign, traveling with Obama to key campaign stops and interviewing Obama exclusively one-on-one on the campaign plane two weeks before Obama was elected as the nation’s first African American president.

Cottman also served as a special consultant on race and diversity issues for The National Trust for Historic Preservation (http://www.preservationnation.org) where he advised the leadership on successful ways to reach out and connect with more citizens of color and help to preserve more institutions of interest to African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians.
He was also retained as a special consultant to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for a national, multi-media project, “Voyage to Discovery,”an education initiative that focuses on the African American contribution to the maritime industry spanning 300 years and efforts to teach students of color about careers in marine biology and oceanography.

 In 1993, Cottman was part of a group of black scuba divers that placed a one-ton monument on the site of the slave ship to commemorate the African people who died aboard the Henrietta Marie and those lost during the Middle Passage. Today, the monument is the only underwater memorial of its kind in the nation.
A bronze plaque is embedded on the concrete monument. The inscription reads: "Henrietta Marie: In memory and recognition of the courage, pain and suffering of enslaved African people. Speak her name and gently touch the souls of our ancestors."
Cottman, who has logged dozens of dives on the slave-ship site, co-sponsors annual trips to the wreck of the Henrietta Marie for certified divers. The site is protected by several federal marine agencies.

In June 2005, Cottman joined several NABS members in taking a group of public school students to the Henrietta Marie site, marking the first time black students had visited the wreck.
Cottman frequently lectures about journalism, African-American history, contemporary social issues, the politics of race, underwater exploration and the African slave trade.

He was a 2007 recipient of a newly-created political journalism fellowship sponsored by the Knight Foundation and The University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communication.
His journalism travels have taken him across the United States reporting on social conditions in communities from Miami to Los Angeles. He has also reported from West Africa, South Africa, North Africa, (Morocco) France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Central America, Barbados, the Bahamas, and The Caribbean. In 1998, Cottman traveled to Dakar, Senegal to write about President Bill Clinton's historic trip to Africa, the most extensive visit to Africa by a U.S. President. In 2005, Cottman served as the keynote speaker for Great Britain's annual Slavery Remembrance Day, held in Liverpool, England. 

Some of Cottman's other presentations include:

  • The Smithsonian
  • National Geographic Society
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
  • The Getty Foundation
  • The National Museums Liverpool, Liverpool, England
  • The American Library Association
  • The Georgia Aquarium
  • The Dusable Museum of Chicago
  • Wayne State University
  • The Junior League of Richmond
  • The Detroit African-American History Museum
  • The National Aquarium in Baltimore
  • The Boston Aquarium
  • Howard University
  • Clark Atlanta University
  • The University of North Carolina
  • Virginia Tech University
  • The Little Rock Museum of History
  • The Augusta Museum of History
  • The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture
  • The Mote Marine Research Laboratory
  • The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
  • The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Cottman's articles have also been published in The Washington Post Sunday Magazine; CNN.com, Essence; Black Enterprise, Emerge, Heart and Soul, and SkyWritings, Air Jamaica's in-flight magazine, as well scuba diving and tourism trade publications. As a writer who enjoys creative diversity, Cottman also wrote a three-part series in 2005 about life, culture and scuba diving in Malaysia.
Cottman, who also served on a special advisory board for the National Geographic Society, assisted in the multi-media development of National Geographic’s highly-acclaimed "Real Pirates" exhibit, which reveals the life of pirates through the artifacts of the Whydah, a slave ship-turned pirate ship that sank off the coast of Cape Cod nearly 300 years ago. 
He was featured in a 2008 National Geographic documentary entitled "The Pirate Code," the story of a 300-year-old shipwreck, the Whydah, and the life Black Sam Bellamy - a legend during the Golden Age of Piracy that follows one man’s quest to resurrect Black Sam’s ship from its watery grave.

Cottman also appeared in a 2007 documentary by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) entitled "Moira Stuart: In Search of Wilberforce," the story of the British involvement in trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Cottman is affiliated with a number of professional associations, including The National Association of Black Journalists, The Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society, and The National Association of Black Scuba Divers. Cottman was certified as an Advanced Open Water scuba diver in 1991 by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI).