In a Madhouse's Din: Civil Rights Coverage by Mississippi's Daily Press, 1948-1968

In a Madhouse's Din: Civil Rights Coverage by Mississippi's Daily Press, 1948-1968

In a Madhouse's Din: Civil Rights Coverage by Mississippi's Daily Press, 1948-1968

In a Madhouse's Din: Civil Rights Coverage by Mississippi's Daily Press, 1948-1968

Synopsis

Mississippi is a unique case study as a result of its long-standing defiance of federal civil rights legislation and the fact that nearly half its population was black and relegated to second-class citizenship. According to the vast majority of Mississippi daily press editorials examined between 1948 and 1968, the notion that blacks and whites were equal as races of people was a concept that remained unacceptable and inconceivable. While the daily press certainly did not advocate desegregation, in contrast to what many media critics have reported about the Southern press promoting violence to suppress civil rights activity, Mississippi daily newspapers never encouraged or condoned violence during the time periods under evaluation. Weill places coverage of these important events within a historical context, shedding new light on media opinion in the state most resistant to the precepts of the civil rights movement.

Excerpt

2 Men Escape in Car Crash, Negro Killed

—from a headline in a Mississippi newspaper in the 1960s

Younger non-Southerners may be baffled by the headline’s implication that the unfortunate Negro was not also a “man.”

The news item that followed gave full identification of the “men,” who were not hurt, including their names, addresses and occupations. The dead Negro was identified only as a “yard boy” employed by one of the “men.” Readers assumed the “men” were white because they were called men, not Negroes or “colored.” In the conventional parlance of the time and place, the dead person was “just a nigger,” worth no more space.

There are few bald examples, in this book by Susan Weill, of the age-old anti-Negro journalism of the kind in the headline mentioned above. The most virulent newspaper “racial haters” are examined and analyzed without rancor. James Ward, Fred Sullins, Tom Etheridge, the Hedermans and others are here, but they are not discussed in detail as the un-American disgraces their writing revealed them to be. Their racist legacy is recorded in their own words because Weill is a journalist who believes the readers should be given the facts and allowed to decide for themselves.

Daily newspapers were the most powerful force fostering retention of Jim Crow laws, which excluded the Negro from almost every good in public life. Using the newspapers, and being used by them, were the politicians, school leaders, lawyers and, incredibly, many churches. So closely did those four emulate the malevolent lead of the daily newspapers that it seems impossible to consider the five apart. Constant degradation of the Negro

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.