Black Journalists In The Civil Rights Movement

2969 words - 12 pages

Black Journalists in the Civil Rights Movement
Commenting about journalism and equality for black Americans, Phyl Garland, a prominent reporter and journalism professor, said, “After the Civil War there was an enormous burst of energy, a desire to communicate, a desire to connect with black people establishing newspapers...It was the first opportunity to use the written word without fear of reprisal.” From that time forward, black journalists in the United States gained further opportunities in the press and used the media to galvanize support and communicate news relating to the Civil Rights Movement. Civil rights movements can be defined as political campaigns for equality by members of an ...view middle of the document...

She notes that in 1964, it was not realistic for an African American to expect help from security guards or authority figures, revealing the inhospitable conditions that black reporters encountered on the job. For photographers, avoiding violence was harder, because their camera equipment made it difficult to hide their involvement in journalism. For instance, photographer Theodore Gaffney had to substitute his 35mm camera for his larger 4 x 5 inch camera so that Ku Klux Klan members, who didn’t want to publicize their actions, would not target him for a beating or even killing. (Simeon Booker 188) White mobs were also known to smash expensive cameras to the ground, destroying a photographer’s livelihood. (Reporting Civil Rights) On another occasion, the violence suffered by reporters ultimately helped the civil rights cause, but in the process, four journalists were beaten and chased by an angry crowd against school integration. The mob was protesting the Little Rock Nine, the first group of black students to attend Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas in 1957. As journalists L. A. Wilson, Moses Newson, Earl Davy, and James L. Hicks walked towards the school, the mob yelled “kill ‘em” and punched, kicked, tripped, and chased the journalists, creating a diversion so that the nine students could enter the school safely. (Reporting Civil Rights) Although this unintentional diversion caused the reporters to suffer injuries, it advanced the goal of equality for everyone. Discrimination against black reporters on the streets also occurred in the newsroom.
Few journalists could find employment in the white press, and even when they did, white co-workers did not always treat them equally. For example, when Louis Freeman, an aspiring radio announcer, tried to get a job, he was told snidely that, “Negro lips were too thick to pronounce polysyllabic words.” This quotation exhibits the white employer’s outright racism and disparaging stereotyping of African Americans’ intellectual capability and physical appearance. Facing such humiliating situations at job interviews was just the beginning. Belva Davis, isolated in a predominantly white TV station, writes that white co-workers wouldn’t walk with her on the same side of the street because they didn’t want to associate with blacks. She also reveals that she was only being paid half as much as her white colleagues. It is evident that even though these reporters were doing the same job together, black journalists were not considered to be of the same value or entitled to the same amount of respect. There was a dearth of African American journalists in most mainstream media. Reporter Chuck Stone recalls starting a job at the Philadelphia Daily News and seeing that “the only other black things there were the desk phones.” In Shocking the Conscience, Simeon Booker recounts President Eisenhower’s refusal to acknowledge any black reporter’s presence at press conferences. He ignored all of the hands raised...

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