A new book co-edited by UMass Journalism’s Kathy Roberts Forde examines how journalism helped establish — and oppose — Jim Crow

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AMHERST, Mass. – White publishers and editors used their newspapers to build, nurture, and protect white supremacy in the South in the decades following the Civil War. At the same time, a vibrant black press fought to disrupt these efforts and force the United States to live up to its democratic ideals.

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Kathy Roberts Forde, professor at UMass Amherst

“Journalism and Jim Crow: White Supremacy and the Black Struggle for a New America,” a new book of collected essays co-edited by Kathy Roberts Forde, professor of journalism at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, centers the press as a crucial political player shaping the rise of the Jim Crow South. Forde and his fellow contributors explore the prominent role of the Southern white press—allied with white political and business interests—in building an undemocratic white supremacist society by promoting and supporting not only lynching and the work of convicted, but also coordinated campaigns of violence and fraud that disenfranchised black voters. They also examine the parallel black press fight for a multiracial democracy of equality, justice, and opportunity for all – a losing battle with tragic consequences for the American experience.

“After Reconstruction, white publishers and editors used their newspapers to build, nurture, and protect white supremacist political economies and social orders across the South that endured for generations,” Forde and the co-writer said. editor-in-chief Sid Bedingfield, associate professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Minnesota, writes in the book’s introduction. “Black journalists fought these regimes during their construction. The stakes could not have been higher: the future of liberal democracy in the newly restored United States was at stake.”

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Razvan Sibii, lecturer at UMass Amherst

Forde and Bedingfield write that “Journalism and Jim Crow” is the first extensive work to examine the fundamental role of the press at this critical juncture in United States history. It documents the struggle between two different journalisms – a white journalism dedicated to building an anti-black and anti-democratic America, and a black journalism dedicated to building a multiracial and fully democratic “New America”. Ultimately, they write, “the southern white press and its political and business allies prevailed, effectively killing democracy in the South for nearly a century and shaping a tragically enduring racial caste system in America. “.

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book cover

Forde also contributes two chapters to the book, which was published by University of Illinois Press. In one essay, she examines how Henry W. Grady, the prominent drafter of the Atlanta Constitution and national spokesperson for the New South, led his “Atlanta Ring” of powerful Georgia Democrats in building the white supremacy in the state and region. “More than any other leader in the New South,” Forde asserts, “Grady provided the intellectual predicate and political blueprint for the erection of white supremacist political economies and social orders in the South.”

His second essay, co-authored with Bryan Bowman, Peace and Security Fellow at ReThink Media, examines how Standard oil magnate Henry M. Flagler and railroad magnate Henry B. Plant built the modern state of Florida and controlled newspapers to protect their commercial interests. , including the cancellation of a Justice Department investigation into forced labor camps in the Florida Keys.

Also contributing to the collection is Razvan Sibii, a journalism lecturer at UMass Amherst who writes about Arthur S. Colyar, who was to Tennessee what Grady was to Georgia. But, unlike Grady, Colyar was an industrialist – the founder of the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company and holder of the state convict lease, he used press campaigns to protect the convict lease and his business interests and to fight against free labor.

Other contributors to the book include: W. Fitzhugh Brundage, William Umstead Distinguished Professor of History at the University of North Carolina; Robert Greene II, assistant professor of history at Claflin University; Kristin L. Gustafson, associate professor at the University of Washington; D’Weston Haywood, associate professor of history at Hunter College, City University of New York; Blair LM Kelley, associate professor of history at North Carolina State University; and Alex Lichtenstein, professor of history at Indiana University.

More information about the book, which is now available in bookstores, and its contributors can be found at https://journalismandjimcrow.com.

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