Archive for category Review

A review of Newspaper Wars

By Jay Bender

If 2017 is bookmarked in history it will be as the year of reassessment.  During the year we’ve been urged to reassess the meaning of “sexual harassment.”  We’ve been urged to reassess what is “normal” conduct for a President of the United States.  And, sometimes with violence we’ve been confronted with a reassessment of those who are honored by statues and monuments in public places.

Former reporter Sid Bedingfield, now Dr. Sid Bedingfield, an assistant professor of journalism and mass communication of the University of Minnesota provides a timely and solidly researched book on the role of newspapers in South Carolina during the civil rights movement and the white backlash to that movement.  The book, Newspaper Wars Civil Rights and White Resistance in South Carolina, 1935-1965, examines the emergence of a black newspaper, the Lighthouse and Informer, as a leading weapon in the effort by the NAACP to gain a role for African Americans in 20th Century political life in South Carolina.

The other side in the newspaper war was fought by the white press, led principally by William Watts Ball, Thomas R. Waring, Jr. and William D. Workman, Jr. through the News and Courier in Charleston.  In today’s context all would be characterized as racists and white supremacists.  In their period, they were merely typical of white South Carolinians in attitude, although their ability to communicate their views was far from typical.

Bedingfield traces the confrontation between the black activists and white resisters with profiles of the principals in the battle.  On the side of the NAACP there was Columbia activist Modjeska Monteith Simkins, Lighthouse and Informer editor John Henry McCray, the African American citizens who risked lives and property to participate in suits challenging unequal pay for teachers, inadequate facilities and resources for black schools and the exclusion of African Americans from voting in the Democratic Party primary with appearances by famed civil rights lawyer and later United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.  Read the rest of this entry »