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The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation Paperback – September 4, 2007
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“A masterpiece . . . The Race Beat is a riveting piece of social history that balances both its subjects brilliantly . . . There has never been a better study of the importance of a free press.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer“Fascinating. . . . Just when you think there's nothing left to say about the civil rights movement, [The Race Beat] pulls you back in.” —The Los Angeles Times“The Race Beat has good characters, good yarns and good thinking. Just as important, though, it’s got a good heart.” —Newsweek “Research for The Race Beat is meticulous, uncovering many facts that have gone unreported in other books about the movement . . . proves a necessary addition to anyone interested in learning more about the movement and the journalists whose work helped transform the South and, indeed, the nation.” —Chicago Sun-Times
About the Author
Gene Roberts is a retired journalism professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. He was a reporter and editor with the Detroit Free Press, The Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot and The Goldsboro News-Argus before joining The New York Times in 1965, where until 1972 he served as chief Southern and civil rights correspondent, chief war correspondent in South Vietnam, and national editor. During his 18 years as executive editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, his staff won 17 Pulitzer Prizes. He later became managing editor of the Times.A native of Alabama, Hank Klibanoff is the Managing editor/news at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He is the former Deputy Managing Editor for ThePhiladelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 20 years. He was also a reporter for three years at the Boston Globe and six years in Mississippi for The Daily Herald, South Mississippi Sun (now the Sun-Herald) and the Greenville Delta Democrat Times.
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The book starts with the publication of Gunnar Myrdal's "An American Dilemma." Myrdal saw the importance of the press in making any change in race relations possible Before anyone outside the American South could protest segregation they needed to understand that it existed and the impact that it had on black people The book essentially concludes with the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. It talks about the protests and riots of the late 1960s when blacks wanted not just equality but power, but this only accounts for a few pages.
We also get to see how often the press gets things wrong--most notably when John N. Popham, the New York Times correspondent in the South, assures his bosses that Southerners are distraught about the murder of Emmett Till and that race relations will work themselves out.
After the attempt to desegregate the schools in Little Rock, Mr Popham is proven wrong and almost every news organization has to cover demonstrations and protests differently Television, which allows everyone to see what's happening, comes into its own. One of the most arresting scenes in the book occurs when a young John Chancellor invites angry whites who are intimidating him to do whatever they like but also to keep in mind that what happens will be picked up by his microphone and go everywhere.
Admittedly, one of the reasons I liked this book so much is that I remember the scenes it describes: Bull Connor using dogs and high power water hoses to keep protesters at bay, the thousands of people at the March on Washington and Lyndon Johnson ending his speech urging the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with "We shall overcome."
It also makes one wistful for a time when reporters seemed better informed and more concerned with ideas than personalities
Thank you for giving good research and a good reading to Emory O. Jackson, of the BIRMINGHAM WORLD newspaper. Emory was a "civil rights fighter" down in Hell, long before M.L.King and many others came along.
Those who chose to read, will see that history was more than King having a dream in Washington, with his arm in the air!
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