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

By Hustwit, William P. | The Journal of Southern History, May 2015 | Go to article overview

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


Hustwit, William P., The Journal of Southern History


Massive Resistance and Media Suppression: The Segregationist Response to Dissent during the Civil Rights Movement. By David J. Wallace. Law and Society. (El Paso, Tex.: LFB Scholarly Publishing, 2013. Pp. [viii], 218. $67.00, ISBN 978-1-59332-614-2.)

Using stories about the "experiences of 'moderate' southern journalists in the civil rights hotbeds of Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas," David J. Wallace considers in Massive Resistance and Media Suppression: The Segregationist Response to Dissent during the Civil Rights Movement the role of the southern media both in helping bring an end to segregation and in promoting a backlash against civil rights (p. 3). Each side of the desegregation debate understood the importance of public opinion to shape the outcome of the civil rights movement. As the effort to dismantle the racial status quo intensified, segregationists responded with coordinated attempts to stifle criticism and dissent within the press.

Wallace, who teaches communication at the University of South Carolina Upstate, begins his study with the "anatomy of massive resistance" and concludes with its decline (p. 15). Relying mainly on secondary and periodical literature, he explores the writings, struggles, and beliefs of journalists in only three southern states, of which Mississippi receives the most attention, during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Wallace notes several instances of moderate journalists deviating from "the southern way of life" but also describes the counterweight of segregationist propaganda and repression (p. 39). In seven trim chapters he examines the impact of the segregationist response on individual writers and editors. His subjects are well-studied and recognizable figures, including Hazel Brannon Smith, Ira Harkey, Hodding Carter Jr., and Harry S. Ashmore. Toward the end of the book, Wallace also covers the mounting segregationist attacks against the national press and details the landmark Supreme Court case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964), which set a precedent for libel law. …

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