"Television News and the Civil Rights Struggle: The Views in Virginia and Mississippi," a short video included in an article by William G. Thomas III
Published on November 3, 2004
Front Royal High School Desegregation (no sound), © February 1959, WSLS Collection, University of Virginia Library.
This film shows the drama and news coverage of this event as students, news reporters, police, and bystanders converged at the school. Over time and through television civil rights events would be viewed or interpreted and at the same time narratives of them would be constructed about the civil rights struggle by all participants and viewers. Local television news, then, not only reported events but also helped craft visual narratives for viewers.
It is often suggested that national television news coverage of the civil rights movement helped transform the United States by showing Americans the violence of segregation and the dignity of the African American quest for equal rights. In the American South, local television news coverage had immediate and significant effects. This essay argues that local television news broadcasts in Virginia in the fifties began to address the segregation issue in ways substantially more balanced and desegregated than the print media, while a major television station in Jackson, Mississippi, worked hard to defend segregation and deny access to opposing voices, both local and national.