The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Oct 31, 2006 - Current Events - 518 pages
42 Reviews
This is the story of how America awakened to its race problem, of how a nation that longed for unity after World War II came instead to see, hear, and learn about the shocking indignities and injustices of racial segregation in the South—and the brutality used to enforce it.

It is the story of how the nation’s press, after decades of ignoring the problem, came to recognize the importance of the civil rights struggle and turn it into the most significant domestic news event of the twentieth century.

Drawing on private correspondence, notes from secret meetings, unpublished articles, and interviews, veteran journalists Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff go behind the headlines and datelines to show how a dedicated cadre of newsmen—first black reporters, then liberal southern editors, then reporters and photographers from the national press and the broadcast media—revealed to a nation its most shameful shortcomings and propelled its citizens to act.

We watch the black press move bravely into the front row of the confrontation, only to be attacked and kept away from the action. Following the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision striking down school segregation and the South’s mobilization against it, we see a growing number of white reporters venture South to cover the Emmett Till murder trial, the Montgomery bus boycott, and the integration of the University of Alabama.

We witness some southern editors joining the call for massive resistance and working with segregationist organizations to thwart compliance. But we also see a handful of other southern editors write forcefully and daringly for obedience to federal mandates, signaling to the nation that moderate forces were prepared to push the region into the mainstream.

The pace quickens in Little Rock, where reporters test the boundaries of journalistic integrity, then gain momentum as they cover shuttered schools in Virginia, sit-ins in North Carolina, mob-led riots in Mississippi, Freedom Ride buses being set afire, fire hoses and dogs in Birmingham, and long, tense marches through the rural South.

For many journalists, the conditions they found, the fear they felt, and the violence they saw were transforming. Their growing disgust matched the mounting countrywide outrage as The New York Times, Newsweek, NBC News, and other major news organizations, many of them headed by southerners, turned a regional story into a national drama.

Meticulously researched and vividly rendered, The Race Beat is an unprecedented account of one of the most volatile periods in our nation’s history, as told by those who covered it.

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Review: The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation

User Review  - John Ellis - Goodreads

An interesting and well-written account of the many reporters, photographers, and editors who told the stories of the Civil Rights Movement, helping shape the narrative that prompted righteous change. Read full review

Review: The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation

User Review  - Nancy Perkins - Goodreads

So well written, giving a view of the civil rights movement through the eyes of journalists and the press. I am once again amazed at the spirit of African Americans; their resilience and grace in the midst of hatred and murder. Should be on the required reading list of every high schooler. Read full review

Contents

An Astonishing Ignorance
3
A Fighting Press
12
Southern Editors in a Time of Ferment
24
Copyright

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About the author (2006)

Gene Roberts is a journalism professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. He was a reporter with the Goldsboro News-Argus and The Virginian-Pilot, and a reporter and editor with The News & Observer and the Detroit Free Press 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 eighteen years as executive editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, his staff won seventeen Pulitzer Prizes. He later became the managing editor of the The New York Times.

A native of Alabama, Hank Klibanoff is the managing editor for news at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He is a former metro reporter, national correspondent based in Chicago, business editor, and deputy managing editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for twenty years. He was also a reporter for three years at The Boston Globe and six years in Mississippi for The Daily Herald, the South Mississippi Sun (now the Sun Herald) and the Delta Democrat-Times.

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