Academic journal article Journalism History

The Press and Race: Mississippi Journalists Comfront the Movement

Academic journal article Journalism History

The Press and Race: Mississippi Journalists Comfront the Movement

Article excerpt

Davies, David R., ed. The Press and Race: Mississippi Journalists Confront the Movement. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001. 301 pp. $30.

Mississippi in the 1950s and 1960s played a useful role for the vicarious working out of America's unfinished constitutional business. No place was more stubborn, miasmic, earthymore "Southern." Four to five decades later, we can say that writing the history of the Civil Rights years is another kind of unfinished business. This book helps fill out that history by focusing on the news media in the Magnolia State during this social upheaval. It is a valuable, though somewhat disjointed, collection of historical profiles of eight Mississippi journalists during what editor and contributor David R. Davies calls one of the most important running news stories of the postwar years.

The scene in Mississippi was more complicated than one might suppose, as Davies points out in his introduction. Supposedly liberal editors awarded Pulitzer Prizes for brave editorials on racial justice did not necessarily favor integration. Hodding Carter Jr., of the Greenville & Delta Democrat-Times, demanded the recall of one of his books because the jacket referred to him as "the foremost integrationist" in the South. In fact, he never supported integration. Hazel Brannon Smith, legendary editor of the Lexington Advertiser, fought back when hit by a local campaign to drive her daily paper out of business and by a libel suit from a violently racist sheriff. But she, too, was no racial "mixer," only a feisty crusader against what she believed was garden-variety corruption.

Other complexities emerge. …

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