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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

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  1,359 ratings  ·  121 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
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published October 31st 2006 by Knopf
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Start your review of The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation
"If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it does it still make a sound?" The age old philosophical question to verify the existence of an event resonates loudly through the theme of this book. If not for the reporters, editors, and photographers, would the realities of the civil rights movement have entered the consciousness of anyone outside the south? It arguably would have taken a different path. Enlightening in-depth analysis of how newspaper, and later, television jo ...more
Jan Rice
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
The mainstream press and the civil rights era
When people imagine the past, they do so with benefit of hindsight, according to which the past had a good side and a bad side, and some people out of habit, obstinacy, selfishness, or sheer badness, took the bad side. Others were on the side of good by virtue of their suffering or their care for the sufferers. Actually, though, the past was full of noise, confusion, mixed messages, and various assumptions, just like the present, and lacked the perspe
Jan 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Helga Cohen
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
In this Pulitzer Prize winning book on race and the media, the final quote sums up the premise 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."

Many viewpoints and key events are explored in The Race Beat. We understand the roles of the President, Supreme Court, Governors of states, law enforcement, Marshalls, the FBI, preachers, editors, reporters, photographers, students, the Ku K
Mikey B.
Nov 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Susan O
"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." ~ John Lewis

The Race Beat is an excellent recounting of the experiences of the media in the South as the civil rights movement grew and reporters and editors discovered the importance of "the race beat". There were many names, few of which I had heard of in other books on the civil rights movement. The book covered journalis
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all readers interested in history and journalism
Recommended to Brent by: these fine authors and Atlanta-Fulton Public Library
This is an expansive, wide-ranging telling of how journalists told the stories of civil rights crimes and the civil rights movements. Disclosure of bias: my mother's father was a print journalist and editor who knew most all of the journalists of this generation. He does not appear, though you get a healthy dose of his peers Harry Ashmore, Ralph McGill, et. al. The cast is large, and it is fair to say the emphasis here is on the messengers - and their coverage - more than the civil rights messag ...more
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This Pulitzer Prize winning book examines the role that the media had on the modern Civil Rights movement. In the late 40s and into the 50s, little coverage in newsprint was given to the issues of African Americans in the southern United States. The stories of beatings, lynchings, and mistreatment were detailed in segregationist newspapers printed for and sold to southern Black Americans. As key figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X began to gain nati ...more
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great history of how the black (and white press) covered the civil rights movement. It was a hard book for me to get through because there isn't too much new information here. It's a useful and great history for what it is (which is the history of a movement through a specific lens), but it's sort of just a history of events as opposed to much analysis.
Patrick Sprunger
Mar 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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. Th
Sep 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2007
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.
Jul 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-history
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 next
Aug 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a must-read book. It's entertaining, insightful, and still relevant in 2014. I started reading this book before any of the Ferguson protests started, then took a break. The book is not a light read. I found myself going back to the book in the midst of the protests and found many parallels between pre-1968 America and 2014. The coverage of race issues in 2014 is drastically improved, but many of the problems are the same.
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An interesting story about the press, media, and civil rights. Important reporters and editors and their experiences especially during the turbulent 60s are highlighted plus Martin Luther King's brilliance when it came to understanding how to utilize the press to further the civil rights movement along. I particularly enjoy the detailed coverage of the MLK years.
Dec 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-stuff
Staggeringly good (I know, they don't give out Pulitzers for nothing). Tells many now-familiar stories of the civil rights movement, but from a totally new perspective, weaving them together with stories of the men who covered them -- their backgrounds, their personalities, their struggles with the movement and what it meant to them and to the nation as a whole. And, mixed in with all that is consistently pointed media analysis, from illumination of the changing role of the African-American pres ...more
Katie Wood
Jun 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Porter Broyles
If you are looking for a book on the Civil Rights, then this probably is not the book for you. This book is about the media coverage of the Civil Rights. In order to do that, the book covers the major milestones/events of the Civil Rights campaign, but it does not delve too deeply into the motives, strategies, rationales of the characters involved.

The book is about the media. The newspapers, TV stations, journalist, and cameramen who covered the movement are the featured characters.

Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this book as part of a challenge to read 6 nonfiction Pulitzer winners this year and joined a group read. I originally had not intended to read the book, since I (rightly) expected it to be written for the American readers, who would have a reasonable knowledge of events and their chronology. But I read Darktown last month, which is a fictional take on the first black policemen in Atlanta 1948. This made me realize I have a huge gap in knowledge about how things developed after the civil ...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
Brad Peters
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: civil-rights
A wonderful work of history definitely deserving of the Pulitzer it earned. Nice coverage of the civil rights era though thru the lens of the media/press/photographers that covered it.
Jul 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 al
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
May 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Journalists by their nature are suppose to be neutral, impartial observers of events that are taking place. The Civil Rights Movement always left me wondering, can someone be neutral and impartial about the violation of basic human rights? It's an extremely tough subject, and it left many journalists thinking as we entered the 1950s. The Race Beat explores the newspapers that would cover African Americans and the individuals who eventually would cover the major stories themselves. From Brown to Selma and ...more
Craig Werner
Feb 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It's not often I read something about the African American freedom movement that adds something important to my sense of the big picture, but The Race Beat did. Roberts writes with a keen sense of the story that illuminates the larger tensions that emerge when you focus on the way that the movement was presented to its various publics: some in the places the events were taking place, but many dispersed across the US and the world. At times, the story is a heroic one of journalists (and especiall ...more
Gary Power
Jul 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Interesting book about the reporters who covered the civil rights movements in the sixties. A good history on the problems of Lynchings, and the tactics used by civil rights activists. One of my fathers favorite books.
Steven Voorhees
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is the most compelling and scintillating book I've ever read. Period. THE RACE BEAT's the definitive history of a heretofore undefined aspect of America's most important sociopolitical crusade: the Civil Rights Movement. Its holy union of word and image left the country at large "shocked and shaken" and showed what it REALLY meant (and means) to be an American and believe in her principles. In detail both heroic and heartbreaking, co-authors Roberts and Klibanoff tell the story of how the m ...more
Matthew Rohn
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book provides a deep account of the role of journalists in the civil rights movement, both in terms of their role as a strategic bridge between activists and white America and in direct conflict with the Jim Crow south in battles over the right to cover the movement. It also presents an interesting challenge to traditionally academic framings of knowledge production, presenting a compelling case study that's much closer to the battlefield than the ivory tower. I would have liked to see more ...more
Joey Clark
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is absolutely fascinating. Like looking behind the scenes at the most momentous cultural revolution in this country‘s history. Gave a tremendous amount of on the ground commentary about key events in the Civil Rights movement such as Brown v Board, Bus Boycotts, Integration of Higher Education institutions like Ole Miss and Alabama, March on Washington, MLK and struggles in Civil Rights Leadership.

All these things would have remained unknown without the press and news media
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This books presents the history of the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s from the perspective of journalists and newspaper editors. In doing so it argues compellingly for the important place the press holds in a just society. It's not only that the editorial pages helped shaped public opinion (on both sides), but also press pictures and stories were often alone in holding authorities responsible.

It's also a moving depiction of the courage and character of the reporters who wer
Hannah S
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this for UIL Social Studies and let me say at time this was wordy and took a lot of concentration to read. It is far from a light read. But the content was so important to read. The struggles of the civil rights movement astonished me. It was a long and hard fight that shouldn’t have been that long. I really appreciate this study on how media shaped the movement. Very informative and resonating.
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NonFiction Pulitzers: The Race Beat: April/May 2018 Buddy Read 63 21 May 07, 2018 07:52AM  
Play Book Tag: The Race Beat by Gene Roberts - 4 stars 1 11 Apr 14, 2018 05:10AM  

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