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The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation (2006)

by Gene Roberts, Hank Klibanoff

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443357,593 (4.34)16
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 Drawing on private correspondence, notes from secret meetings, unpublished articles, and interviews, veteran journalists Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff go behind the headlines and datelines to show how a dedicated cadre of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.--From publisher description.… (more)
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» See also 16 mentions

Showing 3 of 3
The authors start with Myrdahl’s insight that the majority of white Americans, particularly northerners, wouldn’t care about racism unless they were forced to do so. It was the press—particularly photographers and the new technology of television—that made them ashamed enough to support the civil rights movement. This book tells the story of the civil rights movement as seen through its reporting, both in the black press (which ironically started to find itself having a harder time covering some of the stories as the national white press became interested) and in the “mainstream” media. It’s also a reminder of the power of law—expansive libel law kept the New York Times out of several key states for significant periods of time, and other newspapers didn’t even try. And, as both segregationists and civil rights leaders recognized, only publicity—often, only scenes of brutality—could move the fight against segregation forward. So the Supreme Court’s decision to cut back on the scope of libel law appears as a civil rights issue. It’s a gripping narrative, and an appalling reminder of how much racist horror went unpunished and unremarked, or even celebrated in the grossest terms by politicians and editors who were considered leaders of their communities, not very long ago. ( )
  rivkat | Jun 20, 2013 |
Good read for my first trip to Mississippi and New Orleans. I was disappointed that the book seemed to stop abruptly with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. I would have liked the authors to continue their coverage into the urban riots of the north and how those were covered by the press. ( )
  Smiley | May 4, 2008 |
4305 The Race Beat The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation, by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff (read 26 Apr 2007) (Pulitzer History prize for 2006) This account of how the media covered the tumultuous civil rights struggle is of great interest, especially since it recounts many of the exciting events which make that struggle so momentous. The book amply deserves the Pulitzer prize it won. ( )
  Schmerguls | Oct 29, 2007 |
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A richly textured and balanced narrative that reveals the strengths and weaknesses of the news media, as well as the personal and contingent factors — the subtle negotiations, missed opportunities and sometimes heroic efforts — that influenced the on-the-ground coverage of the movement and its opponents.
 
Mr. Roberts and Mr. Klibanoff argue in conclusion that “the national racial trauma might have been even more agonizing if the liberal and moderate editors had not assumed leadership and reached out to the rest of the nation,” but that upbeat view of the Southern press is consistently undercut by the painful evidence their impressively rich and critical book presents.
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gene Robertsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Klibanoff, Hankmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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We dedicate this book to our late parents, Eugene L. "Pop" and Margaret Roberts, and Morris and Roslyn Klibanoff, who continue to inspire us.
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The winter of 1940 was a cruel one for Gunnar Myrdal, and spring was shaping up even worse.
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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.--From publisher description.

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