Date of Award

5-2016

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Max Grivno, Ph.D.

Advisor Department

History

Abstract

At the end of the American Civil War, political divisiveness, economic turmoil, and violence plagued the South. Riots occurred across the Reconstruction South, from New Orleans to Memphis. Though scholars have examined the causes of Reconstruction violence, this study examines the role of newspapers in promulgating fear, paranoia, and violence in Southern communities in the wake of the New Orleans Riot of 1866. This thesis analyzes nine Louisiana newspapers to investigate whether newspapers published local and national rumors of violence or potential uprisings in the first three months after the riot. Though the rise of telegraphic news aided the rapid spread of information, it also enabled the pervasive circulation of rumors, gossip, and paranoia. Conservative newspapers often offered stories of mob activity, chaotic insurrections, and senseless violence, occurring within the state and in other regions of the South. The menace of Radical Republicanism appeared real to conservative editors, and publishing elaborate radical conspiracies, distorting the number of fatalities, and spreading rumors of instability seemed viable outlets for changing public opinion in favor of the Democratic Party.

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