Title

In a Madhouse's Din: Civil Rights Coverage by Mississippi's Daily Press, 1948-1968

Date of Award

1998

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Arthur J. Kaul

Advisor Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Abstract

The time sequence selected for this study allowed analysis of civil rights coverage by the Mississippi daily press from five historical perspectives: the Dixiecrat protest of the Democratic national convention in 1948; the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that mandated racial integration of public schools in 1954; the racial integration of the University of Mississippi in 1962; Freedom Summer in 1964; and the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968. Every issue of each daily Mississippi newspaper published during the following time periods was examined: July 1948, the month of the Democratic national convention; May 1954, the month of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, and August 1954, the month before school was to begin that year; September 1962, when the first black of record enrolled at the University of Mississippi; June through August 1964, Freedom Summer; and April 1968, the month King was assassinated. From approximately 4,800 issues of the microfilmed newspapers, nearly 900 editorials, and 6,500 news articles and headlines, were recorded and evaluated. The general editorial consensus among the editors of the Mississippi daily press regarding civil rights during the time periods studied was that (1) Mississippians, black and white, were not ready for the reality of a racially integrated society as advocated by King in 1968, the civil rights workers in 1964, James Meredith in 1962, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954, or President Harry Truman in 1948, and (2) National civil rights laws not only supplanted state's and individual rights, but had become a way to "court" black votes. According to the vast majority of the Mississippi daily press editorials examined for this study from 1948 through 1968, the notion that blacks and whites were equal as races of people was a concept that remained unacceptable and inconceivable. The study also found, contrary to what media critics have reported about the promotion of violence to suppress civil rights activity in the Southern press, that Mississippi daily newspapers never encouraged or condoned violence during the time periods studied. ftn$\sp1$Ira Harkey, Jr., "Confusing Times, Dangerous Times," Pascagoula Chronicle, 18 September 1962, 6.