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The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation Hardcover – October 31, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (October 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679403817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679403814
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #245,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Faced with "a flying wedge of white toughs coming at him" as he interviewed a black woman after the 1955 Emmett Till lynching trial, NBC reporter John Chancellor thrust his microphone toward them, saying, "I don't care what you're going to do to me, but the whole world is going to know it." This gripping account of how America and the world found out about the Civil Rights movement is written by two veteran journalists of the "race beat" from 1954 to 1965. Building on an exhaustive base of interviews, oral histories and memoirs, news stories and editorials, they reveal how prescient Gunnar Myrdal was in asserting that "to get publicity is of the highest strategic importance to the Negro people." The New York Times and other major media take center stage, but the authors provide a fresh account of the black press's trajectory from a time when black reporters searched "for stories white reporters didn't even know about" through the loss of the black press's "eyewitness position on the story" in Little Rock to its recovery with the Freedom Rides. Although sometimes weighted by mundane detail and deadening statistics, the book is so enlivened with anecdotes that it remains a page-turner. (Nov. 21)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Before the civil rights movement, coverage of race was almost exclusively the purview of the black press, which reported on the plight of southern blacks facing brutality and Jim Crow laws and northern blacks facing a watered-down version of the same racism. Drawing on interviews, private correspondence and notes, and unpublished articles, Roberts, a journalism professor, and Klibanoff, managing editor of theAtlanta Journal-Constitution, describe the personal and professional difficulties faced by southern-born white reporters as they took up the coverage, mostly for northern publications. They chronicle the coverage of the Emmett Till case, Selma march, Montgomery bus boycott, and bombings and sit-ins that constituted the civil rights movement. Roberts and Klibanoff also recall the hatred and threats of violence against white reporters as they dared to report on the turbulence in the South. By retelling the civil rights story from the perspective of the white reporters who covered it, Roberts and Klibanoff demonstrate the profound changes the movement wrought not only on U.S. social justice but also on American journalism. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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This book offers a new and fresh perspective from the reporting side.
Mike B
This book is an astoundingly interesting survey of an important aspect of the civil rights efforts of the 1950s and 1960s.
Schmerguls
I read this book when it first came out and knew right away it was one of the very best I had ever read.
B. Bell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Schmerguls VINE VOICE on April 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I have read a lot on the civil rights struggle, including Taylor Branch's trilogy, and Simple Justice, by Richard Kluger, and have appreciated all the reading I have done on that momentous struggle. But this account of how newspapers and television chronicled the exciting events told me a lot I did not know or had not remembered. The book is carefully footnoted and has a 26 page bibliography, in addition to the footnotes (thus avoiding the unfortunate lapse of some books which are well-footnoted but omit a bibliography). The book not only tells of newsmen and media sometimes going to great, even heroic lengths, to tell the story of the events in the clash between aspring blacks and the status quo, but also tells of the media which sought to uphold segregation. As with other books on the struggle, when one is appalled by the violence and murders which marked the history, it is some comfort to realize that in the end right triumphs. This book is an astoundingly interesting survey of an important aspect of the civil rights efforts of the 1950s and 1960s.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Britt on April 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Outstanding effort by legendary editor Gene Roberts, widely admired for turning around the Philadelphia Inquirer in the 1980s and leading it to multiple prizes in journalism, revisits, with co-author Hank Klibanoff, managing editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, both their own work in civil rights reporting and the work of colleagues to pen this precise and most interesting study of what journalists were and weren't doing when segregation was legal in the U.S.

Highly readable and fascinating history.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on October 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The Civil Rights Movement of the `50s and `60s was a significant and well-known period of American history. But have you ever thought about why it is so well known, or even why it had so much success?

The Race Beat is a story, not only of the well-known players of the Civil Rights Movement, but also the men who covered it in the media. These men poured their hearts and souls into covering the stories that would make the people of the United States stand up and take notice of the injustices being done in the name of "separate but equal," "justice," and "liberty." Many of these men had battled against Hitler over his racial elitism. Once they came home, they were quick to jump into the front lines of our own battle for racial equality before we descended into the depravity that Hitler is known for.

This is a fascinating insider's look at how the civil rights battle was brought to the forefront of the United States' attention. Blending well-known events with the stories of the men who were there writing about it, you get a whole new perspective of what these men were feeling and fighting for. Not just as outside observers, but compatriots.

This book is well written and well researched, but it is slow to start. I picked it up expecting the jump into the civil rights movement, but found myself in the `40s as they laid the groundwork for what the journalists were to become. It is also heavily journalist-centric. That is to say, there are references the non-journalists among us won't understand. But all in all, it is a great read.

Armchair Interviews says: If you are looking for a new perspective on the civil rights movement, this book is for you.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By B. Bell on November 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
I read this book when it first came out and knew right away it was one of the very best I had ever read. Other reviewers have done an excellent job of pointing out many of the book's virtues, but I wish to call attention to one other. When Emmit Till's battered body was sent home, his mother demanded that his casket be open so that everyone could see the cruel mutilation he had suffered. More important--for historical purposes--she allowed his body to be photographed by JET and EBONY, the two black magazines with national circulation. The result was that for the first time white Americans had to look directly at a horrific truth they had been able until then to ignore. Ironically, it was at the trial of Emmit Till's accused murderers that the white press took over the civil rights story. Mrs. Till deserves more honor than she has received; her courage changed history.

I wish I could give the book ten stars.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Philip W. Henry on November 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation

-- Reviewed by Philip W. Henry
When the civil rights story began in the early 1960's, I was a freshman at a Northern College. So much was happening between 1963 and 1968 that it was possible to miss some of the real history unfolding outside "The Ivory Tower `while studying the past. Now, I'm trying to fill in some of the blanks in my education. "The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of the Nation" is a good place to begin. Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff were both intimately involved in covering the biggest stories of the South. Drawing on extensive interviews, and digging in previously unpublished documents and memoirs, they paint a fascinating portrait of the crisis of conscience and confidence that the civil rights story caused in the Southern Media Establishment.
The tensions developed in covering the race story were not just between White, Liberal, and often Jewish Northern News Organizations v. the Old South; but within the Southern Media as well. There were honest and decent Southern publishers and editors who decried the move toward Klan violence and barricaded school houses epitomized by Lester Maddox, Orval Faubus and George Wallace. Ironically, many of the top editors of the supposed Yankee Press (especially The New York Times) were Southerners themselves. (Turner Catledge, one of the T imes's top editors, was from Philadelphia, Mississippi, where the three civil rights workers were found murdered).
If anything propelled the Story of the South into the living rooms of the country it was TV News.
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