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The Press and Race

Mississippi Journalists Confront the Movement

David R. Davies

Publication Year: 2001

For southern newspapers and southern readers, the social upheaval in the years following Brown v. Board of Education (1954) was, as Time put it in 1956, "the region's biggest running story since slavery." The southern press struggled with the region's accommodation of the school desegregation ruling and with black America's demand for civil rights.

The nine essays in The Press and Race illuminate the broad array of print journalists' responses to the civil rights movement in Mississippi, a state that was one of the nation's major civil rights battlegrounds. Three of the journalists covered won Pulitzer prizes for their work and one was the first woman editorial writer to earn that coveted prize.

The journalists and editors covered are Hodding Carter, Jr. (Greenville Delta Democrat-Times), J. Oliver Emmerich (McComb Enterprise-Journal), Percy Greene (Jackson Advocate), Ira B. Harkey, Jr. (Pascagoula Chronicle), George A. McLean (Tupelo Journal), Bill Minor (New Orleans Times-Picayune), Hazel Brannon Smith (Lexington Adviser), and Jimmy Ward (Jackson Daily News). Their editorial stances run the gamut from moderates such as Minor, Smith, and Carter, Jr., to openly segregationist editors such as Ward and Greene.

The Press and Race follows the press from the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision to 1965, when Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. Those years saw some of the most important events of the civil rights movement-the South's resistance to school desegregation throughout the 1950s and 1960s; the Freedom Rides of 1961; James Meredith's admission into the University of Mississippi in 1962; the assassination of Medgar Evers in 1963; and the events of Freedom Summer in 1964. These essays present an in-depth analysis of the editorials, articles, journalistic standards, and work of Mississippi newspaper reporters and editors as they covered this tumultuous era in American history.

While a handful of Mississippi journalists openly defended blacks and challenged the state's racial policies, others responded by redoubling their support of Mississippi's segregated society. Still others responded with a moderate defense of black Americans' legal rights, while at the same time defending the status quo of segregation.

The Press and Race reveals the outrage, emotion, and deliberation of the people who would soon be carrying out the nation's command to end segregation. The journalists discussed here were southerners and insiders in a crisis. Their writing made journalism history.

David R. Davies is chair of the department of journalism at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. A former reporter for the Arkansas Gazette, he has been published in American Journalism, the Chicago Tribune, and the Journal of Mississippi History.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Cover/Title Page/Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

This book is the cumulative effort of nine people—eight co-authors and myself—as well as the numerous people who contributed to the gathering of the information in the five-year maturation of the project. I make a modest effort here to offer thanks. ...

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pp. 3-16

For Southern newspapers as for American Southerners, the social upheaval in the years following Brown v. Board of Education were, as Time magazine put it on 20 February 1956, the "region's biggest running story since the end of slavery." The Southern press struggled with the region's difficult accommodation with the school desegregation ruling ...

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Mississippi's Daily Press in Three Crises

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pp. 17-54

"The majority of Southern editors and publishers have been cynically defending a myth they know to be untrue," media analyst Ted Poston wrote in 1967, "—white superiority, Negro indolence, and a baseless contention that the region's magnolia-scented values would triumph over the moral and legal might of the federal government" ...

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Percy Greene and the Jackson Advocate

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pp. 55-84

Percy Greene aroused disparate reactions among colleagues during his turbulent career as editor of the Jackson Advocate, Mississippi's leading black newspaper during the state's strife-filled struggle for civil rights. From 1939 until his death in 1977, Greene charted an editorial path that earned him both high praise and passionate loathing. ...

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Jimmy Ward and the Jackson Daily News

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pp. 85-110

The Columbia Journalism Review, looking back on the civil rights era in summer 1967, concluded that the Mississippi capital's two daily newspapers had performed terribly in covering the social upheaval of desegregation. Jackson's Clarion-Ledger and the Daily News, the Review concluded, ...

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J. Oliver Emmerich and the McComb Enterprise-Journal

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pp. 111-136

J. Oliver Emmerich knew that trouble lay ahead. In the tense spring that preceded Mississippi's long, hot summer of 1964, Emmerich, editor of the McComb Enterprise-Journal predicted that the impending arrival of out-of-state civil rights workers could easily provoke a violent white backlash in his conservative southwest Mississippi town. ...

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George A. McLean and the Tupelo Journal

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pp. 137-172

For George Alonzo McLean, publisher of the Tupelo Journal one tiling mattered first and foremost—his community. The modest McLean was a hard-driving civic booster who worked methodically to bring agricultural and industrial diversification to Northeast Mississippi from the 1930s to the 1980s. ...

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Ira B. Harkey, Jr., and the Pascagoula Chronicle

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pp. 173-208

In a place and time when men preached hate and killed for no reason but skin color, Ira Brown Harkey, Jr., stood at history's crossroads and cursed the evil of racism. As he watched his state sink into a moral and ideological abyss, Harkey remained a voice of passion and courage during Mississippi's bloodiest civil-rights battles of the early 1960s. ...

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Wilson F. (Bill) Minor and the New Orleans Times-Picayune

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pp. 209-232

Decades after the passage of the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965), Wilson F. (Bill) Minor recounted in a 15 September 1999 interview how the two pieces of federal legislation, after years of struggle, unrest and violence in Mississippi, changed the state forever.1 ...

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Hazel Brannon Smith and the Lexington Advertiser

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pp. 233-264

The editorial career of Hazel Brannon Smith resonates deeply in the popular imagination of American journalism, her story achieving a legendary status forged in the Progressive ethos of the early Twentieth Century. Academic and popular accounts of the Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of the Lexington Advertiser ...

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Hodding Carter, Jr., and the Delta Democrat-Times

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pp. 265-294

Best known as the longtime owner, publisher and editor of the Delta Democrat-Times William Hodding Carter, Jr., has received international and critical attention for his editorial work during the civil rights era. Carter wrote and edited his newspaper in the Delta city of Greenville, Mississippi, his home for most of his adult life; ...

About the Contributors

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pp. 295-296


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pp. 297-302

E-ISBN-13: 9781604739107
E-ISBN-10: 1578063426
Print-ISBN-13: 9781578063420

Publication Year: 2001