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PhD: 20th Century American History

Thesis Title:  The Outward Face of Segregation: Segregationists’ Media Strategies during the 1950s and 1960s

Supervisors and Institutions:

George Lewis (University of Leicester)

Sharon Monteith (Nottingham Trent University)


Thesis Description:

The growing potency of the black Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the decline in support for racial theories and the increasing nationalisation of American life, represented a salient threat to the culture of white supremacy in the southern states. In this transformative context, how did segregationists seek to reignite support for segregation and appeal to a broader national audience? What strategies did they pursue, and what impact did they have?

This project traces the development of segregationists’ utilisation of a rapidly developing mass media, including television, radio, newspapers and magazines, and investigates the variety and expediency of their strategies. By examining the text and visual imagery of segregationists’ media campaigns, the study demonstrates how they adapted to changing attitudes, and explores the metamorphosis of southern resistance into the national conservatism of Nixon and Reagan. Such an analysis reveals the emergence of more palatable colour-blind arguments, approaches that were co-opted by Republican strategists from the late-1960s onwards and continue to appear in mainstream US media today – as seen in some media reactions to the recent verdict in Ferguson, MO.

Alabama Needs The Little Judge - George Wallace For The Big Job (1962)

Whilst a great deal has been written on how Civil Rights activists successfully utilised mass media (Ward, Bodroghkozy), the way segregationists used mass media is unexplored in the existing historiography. In fact, segregationists are generally overlooked in orthodox Civil Rights literature and there is a tendency to present them as ‘homogenous, inflexible, ignorant reactionaries’ (Lewis). My project addresses this imbalance and oversimplification, and portrays segregationists as three-dimensional actors of considerable agency and sophistication. It also confronts the lack of scholarship on the role of mass media in the development of US conservatism (Phillips-Fein) by assessing how segregationists’ strategies and media network provided the foundations for conservative campaigns in the late-1960s, 1970s and beyond. Indeed, the research resonates with current discussions surrounding race relations in the US.

‘The Truth For A Change’, The Citizens’ Council (April, 1959).

The research builds on my MA dissertation by offering a broader appraisal of segregationists’ media tactics. My MA study focused specifically on the television and radio broadcasts of the White Citizens’ Councils, arguably the most widespread and influential resistance group. It exhibited their diverse defences of segregation and documented their use of coded racial politics.


Conference Papers:

2018

  • “Mass Media and Massive Resistance: Segregationists’ Televised Response to the Civil Rights Movement” – paper given at the 2018 EBAAS Conference as part of the “New Perspectives on ‘Massive Resistance’ to the Civil Rights Movement” panel (05/04/2018)
  • "'The Mau Maus are Coming!' World Affairs and White Segregationist Media in the 1950s and 1960s" – paper given at the 2018 HOTCUS Winter Symposium: "The State of the State: What is American Political History Now?", which was held at the University of Nottingham (17/02/2018)

2017

  • "Tearing Down the 'Paper Curtain': Reconfiguring the Perception of Jim Crow Segregation in the United States" – paper given at Nottingham Trent University’s 5th Annual Postgraduate History Conference titled "Truth, lies and myths in history: is 'fake news' old news?" (21/06/2017)
  • “Selling Segregation and Resisting Integration on US Television in the 1950s and 1960s” – paper presented at the “Post-War Far Right and Anti-Fascist Culture and Identity” conference at the University of Northampton (08/06/2018)
  • “How Segregationists Resisted the Civil Rights Movement on American Television” – Work-in-progress paper presented at the Kluge Center Research Seminar as part of my 3-month AHRC IPS research placement at the Library of Congress (28/03/2017)

2016

  • “‘The Truth For A Change’ – The Citizens’ Council Forum, States’ Rights and the Marketability of Segregation” - paper given at the 2016 HOTCUS Annual Conference (08/07/2016)
  • “The Citizens’ Council Forum: ‘The American Viewpoint with a Southern Accent’?” – paper given at the British Academy Conference: Civil Rights Documentary Cinema and the 1960s: Transatlantic Conversations on History, Race and Rights (25/05/2016)
  • “Carleton Putnam and the Citizens’ Council Forum: Broadcasting White Supremacy on the American Airwaves, 1962-1966” – paper given at the University of Leicester Postgraduate History Conference (17/05/2016)
  • “The Outward Face of Segregation” – poster presentation delivered at the Midlands3Cities Research Festival (12/05/2016)

Publications:

2017

2016

2015

Awards:

2018

  • Louisiana State University, Shreveport Foundation Research Travel Grant
  • EAAS Conference Travel Grant

2017

  • 2017 M3C Cultural Engagement Award (25/05/2017)

2016

Public Engagement Activities

2016

  • M3C-C3R Journey to Justice: Nottingham Postgraduate Director (September 2016-January 2017) 

    In this role, I led Midland3Cities' and the Centre for Research in Race and Rights' involvement in the Journey to Justice: Nottingham project. I played a central part in researching and designing the local aspect of the Journey to Justice: Nottingham exhibition, which is free to the public and on display at the National Justice Museum (formerly the Galleries of Justice) from April through June 2017. The Nottingham aspect of the exhibition illuminates neglected stories from the city’s long history of social activism and focuses on local people fighting poverty, racism, and homophobia. This echoes the format of the travelling national Journey to Justice exhibition, which celebrates untold stories from the US Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Both aspects have broad public appeal and seek to inspire and empower people to take action for social justice through learning about human rights movements. Alongside this, I supervised the organization of public events, which are to occur before, during, and after the exhibition, to help promote, supplement, and establish a legacy for Journey to Justice: Nottingham. I also built a bespoke Journey to Justice: Nottingham website (https://journeytojustice.nottingham.ac.uk) and setup Journey to Justice: Nottingham social media platforms on Twitter and Instagram. Throughout these 4-months I was an active member of the steering group and the exhibition sub-committee and, as such, had a significant impact on the direction of the project.

2015


Conferences and Events Organised

2017

  • Midlands3Cities American Studies Retreat (17/06/2017 - 23/06/2017)

2016

  • Midlands3Cities Inaugural Research Festival (12/05/2016)


Other Research Interests:

  • The Civil Rights Movement
  • Black Power
  • White Ethnic Identity Politics in the USA during the 1960s and 1970s
  • American Pro-Wrestling and Southern Wrasslin'
  • The Relationship of 1980s Hardcore Punk in New York City to Right Wing Politics

 

University email address: sw446@le.ac.uk