Massive Resistance and Media Suppression: The Segregationist Response to Dissent during the Civil Rights Movement

Massive Resistance and Media Suppression: The Segregationist Response to Dissent during the Civil Rights Movement

Massive Resistance and Media Suppression: The Segregationist Response to Dissent during the Civil Rights Movement

Massive Resistance and Media Suppression: The Segregationist Response to Dissent during the Civil Rights Movement

Synopsis

Wallace explores the role and methods of media suppression in the South during the civil rights movement and the southern 'massive resistance' to integration. Segregationists understood the importance of public opinion to defending their social system, and, as a result, desperately fought to influence how the civil rights movement and segregation were defined for the nation. However, when certain national news coverage and the voices of a minority of southern journalists challenged the growing massive resistance extremism and the arguments used to preserve the 'southern way of life,' segregationists responded with organized attempts to silence criticism, dissent and public debate within the press.

Excerpt

Throughout the civil rights movement, the media served as a central component in pro-integration advocates’ strategies to bring segregation to an end in the South. However, the media, as well as public opinion, were also areas of significant focus within the strategies of “massive resistance,” the South-wide response to the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling aimed at preventing integration. As such, movement advocates and opponents clashed in battles over how both sides would be defined and ultimately received within the public at large. Movement activists worked on a national scale to demonstrate the true inequality and frequent brutality of southern society. Alternatively, leaders of massive resistance defended their segregated way of life and attempted to shift the public’s focus from arguments concerning inequality and injustice to the federal government’s infringement of states’ rights. the media played a central role in each of these efforts.

The focus on the media of civil rights movement leaders and organizers of massive resistance stemmed from the understanding that the battle over desegregation would take place not only in the South but also far beyond the Mason-Dixon line. Civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. realized early on the importance of northern opinion in their struggle for racial equality. Although King had initially hoped the movement’s message of peace, nonviolence and equality might awaken what he called “a sense of moral shame” in the white southern public and win its support of integration, this strategy proved

Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).

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