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Digital Afro Media
Civil Rights and the Media
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Category: Black History

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A short video highlighting the key role of the media in the fight for racial equality in America in the 50s and 60s. Produced for an A-Level History project at Devonport High School for Boys by Tom Brewer

Civil rights exploded in America at roughly the same time as the television media revolution swept across America. It’s clear that throughout various campaigns the civil rights received a lot of attention from the world’s media. This attention was influential in bringing about change in America in the fight for racial equality.

Here are a few examples…

BUS BOYCOTTS
(MONTGOMERY)
1955
The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a political and social protest campaign that started in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, USA, intended to oppose the city’s policy of racial segregation on its public transport.
The shots of empty buses travelling around empty cities were broadcast across America.
These images demonstrated the power of the whole black community using direct but non-violent action.
It also highlighted to the citizens of America, straight into their own homes, the importance and potential of black economic power as businesses lost millions of dollars.
Not only did it reveal the determined racism of many southern whites but it inspired more northern white support and more co-operation white northern and southern blacks.
Without the world’s media, the boycott would almost certainly not have had the same success as the television was able to garner support for the black people’s cause.

JAMES MEREDITH
OLE MISS
1957 James Meredith was the first African American student admitted to the segregated University of Mississippi, an event that was a flashpoint in the American civil rights movement.
His goal was to put pressure on the President Kennedy to enforce civil rights for African Americans.
These images had helped garner support for the anti-segregation movement and on the Civil Rights movement as a whole.
They also highlighted the Federal government’s role in segregation and provoked a strong reaction amongst many citizens.
BIRMINGHAM CAMPAIGN
ALABAMA
1963 Cameras captured the water’s force pushing young, black protesters down flooding streets. This was compelling and revolutionary television. It shocked many previously unsympathetic Americans into supporting the civil rights cause
MARTIN LUTHER KING
WASHINGTON
1963 King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech was delivered on 28 August 1963, at the March on Washington rally. King’s speech not only reached the 300,000 people from civil rights organizations, church adults from across the country into the deep South during the so-called “Freedom Summer” of 1964.
King was a favourite of the world’s media as his “message and eloquence was met with enthusiastic support”
FANNIE LOU HAMER
ATLANTIC CITY
1964 Fannie Lou Hamer’s televised speech at the 1964 Democratic Convention in Atlantic City signaled a pivotal moment in the history of television’s relationship to the civil rights campaign. Hamer’s now famous “Is this America?” speech infuriated President Johnson, flooded the news networks, and grabbed the attention of the nation.

The media has had a huge impact on the progression of rights for black people in America.
It has made the people aware of the black situation and consequently generated support for the movement.
All mediums were capable of doing this, even the soundtrack at the beginning of this film was written about civil rights and one man’s struggle against segregation

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