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Key civil rights journalists to mark Brown v. Board anniversary at Syracuse University
Key civil rights journalists to mark Brown v. Board anniversary at Syracuse UniversityFebruary 23, 2004Amy Schmitzaemehrin@syr.edu
Hodding Carter to give keynote address
Journalism played a key role in the civil rights movement – and spawned an “all-star” team of journalists who became known for their ability to bring acts of injustice to the attention of the American people. Some of the era’s most prominent reporters and editors will be featured in Syracuse University’s “Defining US: Civil Rights and the Press” symposium on April 24-25.
The two-day event will mark the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which forbade public school segregation; and the 40th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination in public accommodations.
“This is an exceptional gathering of some truly inspiring and courageous journalists,” says Charlotte Grimes, the Knight Chair in Political Reporting in SU’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and coordinator of the symposium. “They’re here because they were witnesses to the epic struggle for civil rights. Perhaps at no other time will such recorders of American history be together in one place talking about such a momentous period – a period that changed education, journalism and indeed the entire American way of life. Their work inspired a generation of reporters and informed a nation.”
A highlight of the symposium will be the keynote address by Hodding Carter III, president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Carter grew up with his family newspaper’s tradition of challenging intolerance and championing civil rights; His father, Hodding Carter Jr., won the 1946 Pulitzer Prize for editorials on racial tolerance.
Carter III continued the family tradition as an award-winning journalist and civil rights advocate. “Hodding continues to be a conscience in journalism,” says Grimes. “When you grow up, as he did, with death threats because of your family newspaper’s stand on civil rights, you have a special appreciation for journalism’s public service mission.”
The other journalists include:
- Earl Caldwell, the first African American national correspondent for The New York Times and the only reporter with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. when King was assassinated;
- Paul Delaney, a 23-year journalist who began covering civil rights for the Atlanta Daily World. Delaney was one of the first African American editors with The New York Times and the first African American director of the journalism program at the University of Alabama;
- Karl Fleming, the Newsweek correspondent who covered most of the major news events in the South during the civil rights movement;
- Phyllis Garland, long-time journalist with the Pittsburgh Courier, a leading African American newspaper that was an early leader in civil rights coverage;
- Dorothy Butler Gilliam, a recently retired journalist for The Washington Post who, as a young reporter for the Defender in Memphis, covered the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School;
- John Herbers, who covered the origins of the civil rights movement in the South, the murder trial of Emmett Till, and, for the New York Times, the expansion of the protests and demonstrations under the Rev. King’s leadership;
- Vernon Jarrett, who covered civil rights in the North for the Chicago Defender. He produced the first daily radio newscast by African Americans, and became the first African American syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune;
- Ray Jenkins, who was one of two reporters to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1955 for coverage of the Phenix City, Ala., uprisings and covered George Wallace’s resistance to civil rights in Alabama;
- Haynes Johnson, Pulitzer Prize-winner for his coverage of the Selma, Ala., marches. Johnson was one of The Washington Post’s most distinguished reporters and is now the Knight Chair in public affairs journalism at the University of Maryland;
- Herb Kaplow, whose civil rights coverage started with reporting the Supreme Court decision in the Brown case and who, as an NBC journalist, was attacked while covering the Freedom Riders in Birmingham, Ala.;
- Charles Moore, a contract photographer for Life and The Associated Press. He was the only photographer to capture the Rev. King being arrested in Montgomery, Ala., at the beginning of the movement;
- Jack Nelson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who covered the civil rights movement for the Los Angeles Times;
- Moses Newson, a veteran journalist whose coverage for the Baltimore Afro-American included the Emmett Till murder trial and school desegregations across the South. He was one of only two journalists on the Freedom Ride bus that was firebombed in Anniston, Ala., in 1961;
- Gene Patterson, whose editorials in the Atlanta Constitution won him the 1967 Pulitzer Prize, a reputation as a voice of conscience in the South and death threats from white segregationists;
- Gene Roberts, who covered the South and civil rights for The New York Times and became one of the nation’s most respected editors as the Philadelphia Inquirer won 17 Pulitzers under his leadership;
- John Seigenthaler, a 43-year veteran reporter, editor and publisher of the Nashville Tennessean, and founding editor of USA Today and the First Amendment Center. He was chief negotiator for the Department of Justice on behalf of the freedom riders in Alabama, where he was attacked by a mob of Ku Klux Klansmen;
- Claude Sitton, the pre-eminent civil rights reporter for The New York Times. He covered the sit-in movements, school desegregation in South Carolina and Alabama, and the assassination of Medgar Evers, then won the 1983 Pulitzer prize for commentary;
- Richard Valeriani, a 31-year veteran journalist for NBC News and The Associated Press who was hospitalized after being clubbed by a white segregationist in Marion, Ala.;
- Ernest C. Withers, a pre-eminent photojournalist of the African American press who was on the scene of the Rev. King’s assassination and who was inducted into the Black Press Hall of Fame in 1988.
In addition to the civil rights coverage of the 1950s and 1960s, the symposium will also reflect on today’s coverage of emerging civil rights movements and issues in the increasingly diverse society of the United States.
The symposium is free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://civilrightsandthepress.syr.edu.