“Printing Hate” details role of American newspapers in lynchings
American newspapers played a prominent role, from the Reconstruction until the 1960s, in promoting lynchings, massacres and other forms of racist hatred and violence. This legacy is documented in an ambitious new project, launched today, by 58 student journalists.
Why is this important: Understanding the deliberate and involuntary roles played by the American media is an essential part of the national examination of systemic racism. It also offers lessons for today’s journalists covering everything from American political movements and the January 6 attacks to human rights abuses in China.
“Some newspapers announced the lynchings to come, often printing the time, date and place where crowds would gather, ”writes DeNeen Brown, associate professor at the University of Maryland and Washington Post reporter who worked with the students, for the inaugural story of the series.
- “Low-heat fry,” yelled a 1902 Texas newspaper headline. “Set for a barbecue,” read another.
- The installments include blunt details of the deadly results of crowd behavior.
Details: “Printing Hate” is a collaboration of the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism and the Capital News Service of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism in Maryland.
- It also includes student reports from the University of Arkansas and HBCU Hampton University, Howard University, Morehouse College, Morgan State University, and North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University.
White Americans were prompted by the headlines to pull black Americans out of their homes, ridicule or torment and flog them, Brown wrote.
- “Some white journalists would watch, take notes and write compelling stories … as if they were writing about a sporting event …
- “Many of these reporters failed to identify whites in the crowd or hold government officials accountable by asking tough questions of sheriffs, judges and other local law enforcement officials who withdrew while white crowds attacked blacks. “
Go back: The project was inspired by Brown’s report on the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921.
- Beginning in the spring, students used computer methods to examine digital archives containing more than 5,000 journals, then analyzed the data, interviewed descendants and historians, took photos, recorded sound, and created charts and a app for telling stories.
The bottom line: “Students were not the first to discover white newspaper coverage, which was often countered by the black press,” Brown writes. “However, they were able to investigate as a new generation of reporters bringing a 21st century perspective to the project.”
- “Who better than the journalists of the future to force the calculation of journalism’s past?” Howard Center director Kathy Best told Axios.
And after: Articles will be published Mondays and Thursdays through mid-December on the Howard Center website of Capital News Service as well as on the National Association of Black Journalists news site and on Word in Black.
To note: Axios co-founder and chairman Roy Schwartz and editor-in-chief Margaret Talev are members of the Maryland J-school Visitors Council.