Steve Schewel left Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1969 to attend Duke as an undergraduate. He graduated magna cum laude in 1973 before earning a master’s in English from Columbia University in 1974 and a Ph.D. in education from Duke in 1982. His first job out of graduate school was teaching writing at North Carolina Central University.
In 1983, he founded the Durham-based newspaper called The Independent. The weekly paper has won some of the most prestigious awards in American journalism, including the George Polk Award for environmental reporting, the Investigative Reporters and Editors national award, the H.L. Mencken Writing Award, and the Thurgood Marshall Award. He met Hart Leadership Program Director Alma Blount during her tenure as photo editor and chief photographer for The Independent. Schewel stepped down as publisher in 1999, but continued as president of the publishing company until he sold the company in 2012. He continues to own Hopscotch Music Festival.
Schewel also has an active life in local politics and public service. From 2004-2008 he was a member and vice-chair of the Durham Public Schools Board of Education. In 2012, he was elected to Durham City Council. He was elected Mayor of the City of Durham in 2017.
He also generously donates much of his time to the community, and now serves or has served on many boards, including the Durham Tech Community Foundation (past chair), the Durham Public Education Network, the Durham Arts Council, the Blue Ribbon Commission for the Future of Durham High School (now Durham School of the Arts), Urban Ministries of Durham, and the community advisory boards for both WNCU and WUNC radio.