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

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  440 ratings  ·  63 reviews
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...more
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published October 31st 2006 by Knopf
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Mikey B.
This is another significant work on the Civil Rights era. Its’ overriding theme is how the media (newsprint and T.V.) played an essential role in presenting to the general public the sordid racist state that existed in the Southern U.S. and by exposing this helped to bring progress to ameliorate the conditions. Without the media it is doubtful that the racial climate in the Southern U.S. would have improved – it certainly would have taken more time. John Lewis said that without the presence of t...more
The final quote of the book sums it up well: "If it hadn't been for the media - the print media and television - the civil rights movement would have been like a bird without wings, a choir without a song." The book is amazing - many viewpoints are explored, as well as key events, the roles of the president, Supreme Court, the states, governors, law enforcement, marshals, FBI, preachers, editors, reporters, photographers, students, Martin Luther King, the Ku Klux Klan - it's all here. The nonvio...more
Patrick Sprunger
The subtitle of The Race Beat reads: "The press, the civil rights struggle, and the awakening of a nation."

The genius of Jim Crow (and key to its longevity) was its ability to operate undetected. Many of the defenders of the fortress segregation of the South lent support without ever knowing the true shape of the institution. Most Southerners were like people with their noses pushed up to the edge of an iceberg. From their vantage point, they had no way of knowing the hulk's true size and shape....more
The Race Beat tells the story of the press, its coverage of the civil rights movement, and its importance in effecting change by bringing to the nation's attention the wrongs of segregation. The argument was compelling, exciting, not too I'm-banging-you-over-the-head, and ... it made an important point about the importance of the press.

The writing was easy to read, elegant, but nothing extraordinary. It was the content that hooked me. The stories within the larger story were fascinating.

Just a...more
If you have to read this for a class or otherwise study this book, don't try to beat the system by listening to the audiobook instead, because bewilderingly long lists of people and newspapers go whizzing by fairly frequently. They're hard to keep track of.

But for personal edification while driving, cooking, or exercising, this audiobook is first-rate. However, vivid descriptions of beatings and other assorted violent mayhem are wince-inducing, which might draw odd looks from the person on the...more
Katie Wood
What I liked so much about this book is not only its unique perspective, but also that it tells the story of the civil right movement as a page turner. Even though we know how history turned out, at each chapter's end I was ready to read the next to see what happened. I teach Mass Communications Law and I use this book to put the New York Times v. Sullivan decision in historical context for the students.
An impressive achievement. Covering how the media covered the civil rights movement actually has a whole lot to tell us, not least in revealing how concerted the invisibility was at the most basic level: there were no national media with bureaus in the South until 1947, when the NYT stationed someone there, and not a second one until the LA Times in 1965. So for years the whole movement was left to the vagaries of whatever liberal-minded editors might wish to actually talk about what was going o...more
Two things that always make me inclined to like a book even more than I normally would: (1) When it lives up to a friend’s recommendation, and (2) When it lives up to the awards it has received. This book is a well-deserved winner of the Pulitzer Prize, but it is by no means an easy read, and I never would have found it if not for a friend’s recommendation. I began this book in December 2009 and had to return it to the library when I was about a quarter of the way through it. I finally got aroun...more
It begins talking about the work of a Sweedish researcher in the '40s who wrote that the condition of black Americans in the South in the Jim Crow era would never improve without massive publicity. People outside the South, while morally sympathetic, would never rally around and demand social change unless the immoral, uncivil, and illegal conditions blacks suffered were portrayed graphically, bluntly, and provocatively. And that's how the author portrays how the press corps - starting with news...more
Stephanie Patterson
In The Race Beat, the authors give us a history of how the press covered The Civil Rights Movement of the late 1950s and 1960s. Television had a tremendous impact making it possible for just about everyone to see what was actually happening in Little Rock, Birmingham and Selma.

The book starts with the publication of Gunnar Myrdal's "An American Dilemma." Myrdal saw the importance of the press in making any change in race relations possible Before anyone outside the American South could protest s...more
This book can be slow moving and very detailed but before you know it you're in the middle of the integration of Central High in Little Rock, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Bull Connor and his dogs in Birmingham, the Freedom Riders, the Emmett Till murder trial, the March on Washington and much more. I grew to enjoy the slow pacing because it showed how most often very common people were put in extraordinary situations and how many of these seminal moments weren't pre-ordained or perfectly planned....more
Aug 03, 2012 Diana rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: those interested in civil rights history
Recommended to Diana by: book club selection
This book is a account of how the white southern press, the black national press, and the national news media covered civil rights action in the South. The Emmit Till murder and trial, school integration, freedom riders, Selma, Birmingham, MLK, Medgar Evers, James Meredith are some of the people and events covered in the time period of the book. The book is a well researched account of the journalists' role in covering and getting out information about what was happening across the South. It is...more
May 19, 2009 Ashley rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: students, Southerners, reporters, media professionals
Shelves: history, what-i-study
The first 100 pages or so of this book are s-l-o-w. In part because the Southern press in the 1940s-1960s was a very large group with several key players (an era before media consolidation) the authors have to spend a lot of time setting up the people who will make the next 300 pages fascinating reading. If you can slog through all the names and "who ate lunch with whom and when" stuff you'll be in for a fascinating explanation of how the press augmented the Civil Right's Movement and how Dr. Ki...more
This book has two important utilities. The first and more shocking is a as a new look at the brutal violence and racism of the deep South in the United States in the mid-century. Though much of this might be just a rehash for some readers with a firm knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement, many of the anecdotes and events were new to me. The details of the Emmett Till trial were never clear to me before this. The authors render the court room so clearly, through first hand accounts from activist...more
Jul 14, 2009 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kate by: Paul bought this for me at the Newseum-- thanks!
This book was very thorough and exhaustive in tackling its subject.

It examined the role of the larger black newspapers, such as the Chicago Defender, Baltimore Afro-American, and the Pittsburgh Courier, and the black press in general, as well as a focusing on a number of more moderate to liberal mainstream newspapers in Little Rock, Atlanta, and elsewhere. (It also highlighted the most pro-segregation papers, like the Richmond News-Leader and both Jackson, Mississippi, papers.) It also very brie...more
Jun 20, 2007 Skip rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: All Southerns and especially journalists
This book could be thought of as one of the definitive accounts of the Civil Rights movement in the South.
It exposes the insolence, cruelty and insular nature of this part of the country up until the mid-60s. Some would argue little has changed. Maybe so. But my faith in humanity says much has changed, and part of what moved this region from lynchings to some sense of Lincoln, was opening the place up and telling the stories. And it was reporters – black and white – who did it, and often at gre...more
This was an incredible book. It won the Pulitzer Prize for History Book a few years back and it's especially timely as I was reading it pre-Obama and post Obama's election. It's a history of the Civil Rights movement in the South. Not only was it a more detailed review of all the riots and demonstrations that I had learned, it places the history in an interesting context by telling the stories of the reporters sent to cover the struggle and the difficulties these reporters (mostly White) had in...more
Sep 03, 2012 Mary rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: faves
A history of the Civil Rights movements through the eyes of the press. In the early days of the movement, mainstream (northern and sympathetic, and southern, sometimes sympathetic, sometimes rabidly hateful) and the Black press had access to the stories, because the southern states hadn't begun to keep Black reporters out. By the time of, say, school integration in Little Rock, however, the Black press had no direct access to the events, because police kept them out. Learn your Civil Rights hist...more
Oct 01, 2007 Phayvanh rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: journalists and anyone else interested in the struggle
Shelves: reviews, 2007, reportage
This is such a wonderful and engaging account of the press that helped me to understand the dynamics of media, policy, and public opinion in a way I hadn't thought of it before. It's a chronological account of press coverage, taking into account the movers and shakers in the media world and Southern politics. Gives a lot of attention to the smaller African-American papers.

I encountered this books while working at the bookstore. A local newspaper editor special ordered a copy and I was reading wh...more
I had always wanted to read a history book about the Civil Rights era. As a journalist, this angle on the story appealed to me. This is a thoroughly researched book that gives both sides of the story. From the dedicated black and white journalists who came from the north, to the southern segregationist editors and reporters who ended up "on the wrong side of history."
While told in a straightforward "history book" style, there are nevertheless harrowing scenes that make you keep turning the pages...more
Open Door Baltimore
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this 2006 book is a modern history classic. Set in the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s, the book focuses on the struggles and courage of American journalists, many of them Southern and many of them white, as they championed the cause of expanded civil rights for all Americans. With careers on the line and death threats in the air, these journalists made the correct moral decision to awaken the nation on the pages of their newspapers and magazines. The sevent...more
This book should win the pulitzer prize for "most mention of the pulitzer prize". In between the continual shoutouts and overexposed back-of-house reporting details, there is hidden a really quite good accounting of newspaper, tv and magazine coverage of the civil rights movement. I share with the authors the opinion that there would have been far more and worse violence in this era had the reporters not been covering it as well as they did. Those reporters and editors were heroes. But was it re...more
This Pulitzer-prize winning book takes a new approach to the history of the Civil Rights Struggle for African-Americans, by focusing on the newspapers and journalists who first wrote -- often at great personal cost -- about this important period in American history. A riveting story and full of great characters: The heroes who are flawed, hesitant, unsure but also hold fast to their moral visions; the villains: smart, canny, ruthless; and the tragic figures who saw what was happening but didn't...more
Nancy Perkins
So well written, giving a view of the civil rights movement through the eyes of journalists and the press. I am once again amazed at the spirit of African Americans; their resilience and grace in the midst of hatred and murder. Should be on the required reading list of every high schooler.
John Ellis
An interesting and well-written account of the many reporters, photographers, and editors who told the stories of the Civil Rights Movement, helping shape the narrative that prompted righteous change.
Nov 13, 2007 Erica rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: history lovers
I can't finish this. Not now. I prefer my history books to read like a story. The Race Beat is great journalism. I just can't read this much historical detail in this format.

Plus, knowing that the highlight of the book is going to be reading about Ira A. Lipman makes me want to bash my head against the wall. And I'm a pacifist. This jerk also signed my copy of the book as if he wrote it himself, or as if he is actually a believer in equality for all people.
I had some difficulty getting into this in the beginning, especially because there are just so many different names and newspaper mentioned, but it was very much worth sticking with to the end.
A great account of the roll the press played in the civil rights movement. Details a variety of editors, reporters and photographers and their coverage of school integration, civil rights leaders and voting rights. It is written chronologically from events in the forties through the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. I would have liked to see more information on the black press (which gets some attention), but overall a great book.
Dennis Henn
Not as good as "Parting the Waters," but this book won a Pulitzer for a reason. Detailed without being tedious, Roberts captures plenty of the tension that roiled the South during the fifties and sixties. As a reader, I felt a bit of the danger reporters and protesters must have felt as angry, empowered law enforcement agents meted out injustice. It is hard to imagine the depth of our depravity and our ability to hate.
Wow.. still in the first chapter but already my mind is swirling with a new view on the civil rights movements answering a question I have long asked - why did it take so long to happen?
I'll keep in in touch but briefly, this book tells the story of a few liberal minded press editors who brought he atrocities of racial hatred to the entire nation and world. The title refers to the beat - or assignment of a news reporter.
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