Historian claims newspapers support white supremacist political economy

  • “Printing Hate” is a new series on the role of newspapers in inciting racial violence between 1865 and 1960.
  • Some newspapers have served as spokespersons for a white supremacist agenda, a historian told Insider.
  • She said newspapers often work with white leaders to thwart black economic aspirations.

A new series, “Impression of hatred“, reports on the role played by newspapers in instigating the racial lynchings and massacres from 1865 to the 1960s.

The the project is a partnership the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism and journalism schools at several universities. Sixty journalism students were selected to cover and write the series.

Professor Kathy Roberts Forde, historian of American journalism at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, was quoted in “Printing Hate”. She has a book coming out next month called “Journalism and Jim Crow: White Supremacy and the Black Struggle for a New America. “

Forde told Insider that much of the local newspaper coverage during this period was aimed at defending white supremacist political economy – and newspapers affiliated with the Southern Democratic Party served as spokespersons for this. agenda.

“They used their soft power, their storytelling power from their newspapers, to spread a white supremacist ideology,” Forde said.

“And they did it through political stories, economic stories, social stories, etc. But they also used newspapers as the institutions themselves – they used that hard power of a media institution uniting its forces with politicians and political leaders to design electoral violence against southern blacks. “

Newspaper articles were behind the Danville Massacre in 1883, the project revealed

African-American homes after the racial massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921

Smoke rises from the ruins of African American homes after the 1921 racial massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


The first two articles in the series, published on Monday, show how newspapers in some cases spread lies stirring up racial tensions that led to the violence, including the Danville Massacre.

The project reported that on November 4, 1883, the Richmond Dispatch wrote: “These negroes had obviously come to see themselves as somehow the legitimate rulers of the city. They were taught a lesson – a dear lesson, it is true … but nonetheless a lesson that will not be lost on them, nor their race elsewhere in Virginia. “

The “lesson” the newspaper referred to was the lynching of black men for daring to leave their homes to vote, the series reported. In three days of violence, seven black men were kill and two white men were injured.

This type of violence by white citizens was common at the time, Forde said.

“Throughout the 1883 election season, Democrats instigated racial animosity through inflammatory reports and comments about ‘black mismanagement’ in newspapers statewide,” Forde said. to Insider.

It was all prompted by a newspaper article raising fears of black political power in the region, according to the project. Many newly emancipated blacks were starting businesses and being elected to public office, which white newspapers interpreted as a sort of loss for white residents.

This was common during this time because white papers always had a political agenda and mystified much of their editorials and reporting, Professor Jane Dailey, who was also quoted in the “Printing Hate” project, told Insider. The black newspapers provided the rest.

“There have been many black newspapers throughout this time that have consistently pushed back against these institutions,” Dailey said. “Those were thorns in the side for anyone who wanted to stop talking about white supremacy.”

Newspapers were one of many institutional pillars that supported white supremacy, historian says

Greenwood neighborhood after a crowd went by during the race massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma

A view of the Greenwood neighborhood after a crowd passed during the race massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 1, 1921.


Newspapers have often collaborated with white political and business leaders to thwart black economic aspirations and opportunities, Forde said, citing the 1919 Elaine Massacre in Arkansas.

About 100 black sharecroppers went to meet The Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America about organizing a union because they were fed up with unfair low wages. White armed men showed up at the church where the meeting was held and gunfire was exchanged between the men and two armed union guards.

In response, Governor Charles Brough called 500 soldiers, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Many local newspapers that day also published racist provocations. securities, prompting hundreds of whites from outside the county to rush to hunt and murder black citizens, according to one essay on the incident. At least 200 blacks were killed.

“Arkansas newspapers were co-conspirators with white political leaders, including the governor, as well as white plantation owners to cover this racial massacre,” Forde said. “It was about crushing the economic hopes and the work of the black sharecroppers and sharecroppers.”

Black men were lynched when they exercised political autonomy, could escape the criminal debt system as farmers, or had successful businesses competing with white businesses, Forde said. And she added that newspapers have often instigated feelings of fear among whites, acting as one of the many institutional pillars that have supported white supremacy.

She said it still resonates in the media today, with many newsrooms across the United States still predominantly white, the newsroom management lacking in diversity and news content and coverage in front. be more diverse.

“My position is that we need a revolution in the standards of journalism that directs journalism towards the goals of a multiracial and fair democracy,” said Forde. “We need to have serious conversations today in the news industry itself and in higher journalism education about what these types of standards might look like.”

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