The Civil Rights Movement and Television – E-Notes Website –
During the 1950s the struggle for civil rights came to a head at the same time television began to appear in most Americans’ homes. At the beginning of the decade, television was a novelty owned by very few people. By 1960 ninety percent of American homes had television. Television became a catalyst for change on a massive scale. People in the northern states could see what was happening in Selma, Birmingham, and Memphis and vice versa. In addition, television helped Southern blacks unify, for while local Southern media rarely covered news involving racial issues, they now had access to national newscasts that were witnessing and documenting this revolution.
THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT AND TELEVISION – CBS Reports: Who Speaks for Birmingham
Who Speaks for Birmingham, broadcast during the tumultuous rise in visibility of the civil rights movement in the media, reported on the racial divide between the white and black communities of Birmingham, Alabama. Residents testify to their conflicted feelings about how racial integration will affect their lives, with very differing portraits offered from both the white and black community. Although Howard K. Smith reports for this program, an uncredited Edward R. Murrow developed the topic and got it approved by CBS management. (1961; 55 minutes)
Mrs. George Bridges, a cultural leader in the highly segregated South, discusses her feelings about the role prejudice plays in the lives of the white Birmingham elite.
Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, civil rights activist, describes the 1957 attempt on his life by a mob of Klansmen, which occurred when he and his wife attempted to enroll their children in a previously all-white public school in Birmingham.
How did the media influence the civil rights movement?
Television gave a lot of coverage to the Civil Rights Movement. For example, the media covered events ranging from the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott to the 1964 Democratic National Convention. When 15 year Emmitt Till was murdered there was also a lot of media coverage. All of these events were occurring while the number of American families that had television sets jumped from 56% to 92%. Television gave Americans a visual of what was occurring in our country.
Here are some other events that television covered:
1955-shots of numerous boycotted buses driving down deserted Alabama streets; 1957-angry white mobs of segregationists squaring-off against black students escorted by a phalanx of Federal Troops in front of Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi; 1965-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., leads a mass of black protesters across a bridge in Selma, Alabama; 1963 attack on young civil rights protesters by the Birmingham, Alabama, police and their dogs, and the fire department’s decision to turn on fire hydrants to disperse the young black demonstrators, most of whom were children.
The media influenced the civil rights movement in key ways, and it is important to understand that the leaders of the movement understood this fact very clearly. First, the media tended to anoint leaders of the movement, particularly Martin Luther King. This had the effect of portraying King’s vision of the movement, which was non-violent and essentially political (the media for a time tended to efface his statements about economic equality) as if it represented a consensus.
The other influence the media had on the movement was to televise its key events to a nationwide, and even worldwide audience. The entire nation was shocked by the shocking scenes from places like Birmingham and Selma. Not only did this lead to popular support for civil rights legislation everywhere but the South, but in a Cold War context, it created a major propaganda opportunity for the Soviet Union to portray US rhetoric about freedom as hollow and meaningless.
The media played a vital role in being able to galvanize more Americans into witnessing for themselves the atrocious violations of individual rights that were taking place in the South. The media showing the horrendous conditions, or the pain that protesters had to endure from others helped to bring more people into the movement. This galvanizing of emotion into action was facilitated by the media. Individuals in the North who might not have been moved to action were done so through the media. When Dr. King gives his « I have a dream » speech, the broadcasts of this moment helps to give voice to the movement. It was the media that would have preempted its own programming to show the atrocities happening in America. For example, interrupting its own broadcast of « Judgment at Nuremberg, » ABC News showed protesters being beaten in the South.
Without the media, the civil rights movement would not have been possible in my opinion. The whole strategy of the movement was based on getting media coverage.
The movement was really trying to persuade whites outside the South to support the cause of civil rights. These whites would not have been able to hear much about the movement without the media.
In addition, they would have been less likely to support blacks even if they had heard about it. The media coverage made support more likely because it showed things like protestors getting attacked by police dogs. This made the Southern whites look bad and got a lot of support for the movement.
On protest movements
There are many types of demonstrations, including a variety of elements. These may include:
Marches, in which a paradedemonstrate while moving along a set route.
Rallies, in which people gather to listen to speakers or musicians.
Picketing, in which people surround an area (normally an employer).
Sit-ins, in which demonstrators occupy an area, sometimes for a stated period but sometimes indefinitely, until they feel their issue has been addressed, or they are otherwise convinced or forced to leave.
Nudity, in which they protest naked – here the antagonist may give in before the demonstration happens to avoid embarrassment.
The protest movements, inspired by the so-called Arab Spring and the initial protests in Spain earlier in 2011, have spread globally. Many have been nicknamed as “Occupy” movements such as Occupy Wall Street, in reference to how Egyptians occupied the famous Tahrir Square during their uprising.
How have the media contributed to empower people ?
Would the Civil Rights movement have been possible without the media?
(see my previous post ¨Power and Counter Power¨ to find more documents to illustrate the role of the media in shaping public opinion ie: Greenpeace, Wikileaks, We are the 99 percent)
Power is the ability to exercise authority and influence over others. It can be exerted in different areas such as Economy, Politics, media etc..
In relation to the notion, the topic/theme we are going to deal with/discuss will be the 4th power. The 4th power is usually defined as the power of the press and public opinion-
Problematiques/key questions we may wonder if/to….
To what extent can the press be considered as a form of power? why and to what extent?
What should the limits to convey information be?
Should classified elements remain secret? Should Wikileaks be limited?
Should limits be imposed on counter powers?
Do we have the power as citizen to shape public life?
Are empowered citizens truly powerful?
Are counter powers really effective?
Have counter powers acquired more power/influence?
Is the influence of Internet a good influence?
To what extent are counter powers growing in influence?
Can active citizens change the world?
How have social media helped empower people?
Is the power of the people greater than the people in power?
The press and public opinion are commonly nicknamed the fourth power. By extension the 4th power refers to the various means of communication which can be used as counter powers to limit the 3 other powers (which are the legislative executive and judicial powers). For many years new powers have emerged and have had a great influence on public opinion. Internet is refered to as the fifth power.
Documents to illustrate your topic :
The power of the press : The Panama papers :
One of the biggest leaks in journalistic history reveals the secretive offshore companies used to hide wealth, evade taxes and commit fraud by the world’s dictators, business tycoons and criminals.Panama Papers are documents obtained from a Panama-based offshore services provider called Mossack Fonseca. The documents were received by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).
WikiLeaks is an international online not-for-profit media organization founded by Australian activist Julian Assange that has published and made available to the public a huge number of classified, uncensored and highly sensitive documents from various anonymous news sources. Its website, which opened in 2006, collected a database of more than 1.2 million documents in the first year alone. This initiative to reveal and make public state secrets and confidential information received intense media coverage but also prompt state retaliation. Julian Assange is hiding….Some consider him a hero, others a villain.
The scene is set in the street before the New York Stock Exchange. In the foreground, a policeman is arresting a demonstrator who is wearing a sweater with Öccupy Wall Street¨written on it and a badge which reads ¨99%¨. The policeman is trampling over a placard with the word ¨GREED¨ barred on it . We can therefore infer that the demonstrators are protesting against greed. In addition, there are masked robbers/thieves in the background standing in front of the Stock Exchange. Each of the men is carrying a bag full of money and yet they are not being arrested. They are watching the scene and seem quite relaxed about the police presence. The cartoonist´s message is clear. The demonstrator is being arrested simply for occupying Wall Street, meanwhile the thieves, obviously representing the world of finance go unpunished.
The power of NGOs:
The NGO Greenpeace has monitered the anti-environmental practices of big business and industry for over 40 years. Every time they find evidence of wrong-doing, they try to alert public opinion any way they can.
Comments: Here we have a perfect illustration of powers and counter powers – It also reminds us of the fight of David against Goliath with the small inflatable of Greenpeace challenging the monster ship which represents big business- Obviously the dinghy can´t stop the boat but maybe the photo can. The power of money and big businesses is being confronted by the Citizen power of an NGO and the media.
HOW TO CONCLUDE
In the conclusion, dedicate a sentence or two by summarizing what you have been discussing. It´s a good idea to link your key question to another notion by opening up with a suggestion or a question.
Myths and heroes:
Does being an activist make you a hero?
Can Julian Assange be considered a hero?
Idea of progress
Power is a force connecting people,communities and nations in a constant progress of contestations and change. The growing influence of street movements, of the free press, of the internet, is also a sign of more democracy.
Spaces and exchanges
Exchanging information in a digital age has empowered citizens.
Power – powerful- powerless- to empower- empowerment-
To exercise/to possess/ to seize/ to enforce/ to grant/ to wield/ to lack…. power
To release information /to shed light on/ to discredit/
Public opinion/reliable sources/misconduct/censorship/classified/
An interesting video which can be related to myths and heroes (famous celebrities – Bono, Bill Gates, Doris Buffet, etc.. to what extent can these good Samaritans be considered heroes?) and also social progress – To what extent do these good Samaritans contribute to make the world a better place ? If progress is advance or development toward a better human condition, how has the idea of charity evolved over the years? (see charity versus philanthropy)
TRANSCRIPT OF THE VIDEO Philanthropist provides….
Each day, thousands of people with mental illness areliving on the streets of cities and towns acrossAmerica. The U.S Department of Housing and UrbanDevelopment says one-fifth of the 610,000 homelessacross the country suffer from a mental illness. DorisBuffett is the sister of investor and billionaire WarrenBuffett. She has donated one million dollars through anon-profit organization to house homeless people withmental illness.
Doris Buffett is a philanthropist, a wealthy person whogives money to help make life better for other people. She lives in the small town of Fredericksburg, Virginia.Her recent gift of one million dollars went to a local non-profit called Micah Ecumenical Ministries. She saysshe is happy to help homeless people with mentalillness find new homes.
« I’m overwhelmingly happy that due to my brother’s brilliance, and he’s hadgood luck, we’ve all got good luck, that I can do what my heart wants me todo. And this is it, I’m determined to give away my money before I die. »
Vickie Chevrette and her brother Jerry Grimsley were among 20 people toreceive homes as part of this effort. They still remember that cold Januaryday, when they packed up their tents and stepped into a real house for thefirst time in three years.
« I couldn’t believe it. It was wonderful. It was warm. It was solid. »
« Warm. Well, we didn’t have to worry about the snow no more, or the rains,because we used to get flooded, we had to go buy a pump to pump water out from our tent sections. »
Meghan Cotter is the Director of Micah Ministries. She organized thepurchase of seven so-called « Buffett Houses. » To live in one, she says,residents must pay 300 dollars rent per month per room, or do volunteer workto make up for the part of rent they cannot pay.
« We are not just putting people into housing and providing support services, we are actually giving them reasons to get up in the morning, and come and be a part of something. And a lot of them really have a lot of value in that. »
Vickie Chevrette’s receives disability payments from the government. It paysfor the rent for their home. The home provides her with privacy and comfort.Since moving into the house, Vickie Chevrette has been mentally stable. Shenow can remember to take her medicine instead of worrying about where totake a bath. And she loves her kitchen, with its granite countertop, and newappliances.
« Everybody that comes into this kitchen says they want it. »
Although his back injury makes it hard for Jerry Grimsley to do anyhousework, he tries to mow the lawn and plant flowers in the back yard.
« Just to show we have pride in the place, and we are trying to take care of it. And show Ms. Buffett that we are really thankful that she gave us thisopportunity. »
Doris Buffett’s contributions have helped Micah Ministries cut the number ofhomeless in the city by 58 percent over the last five years. The philanthropistsays she is extremely happy with this project, and plans to donate even moremoney in the future.
I’m Marsha James.
Lin Yang and Enming Liu reported this story from Fredericksburg,VA. MarshaJames adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.