"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
Demonstrations in Danville, Virginia, 1963, WDBJ, University of Virginia.
Danville civil rights leaders in the Danville Christian Progressive Association organized and led the June 1963 protests. With some Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee training and support, the protests featured signing, clapping, mass marches, and loud chanting. This television footage captured both the nature and style of the protestors, as well as the uneasiness of the onlookers, and the edgy vigilance of the police. Police, city authorities, and white conservatives interpreted the marches as inspired and organized by outsiders, led by students playing hooky, and bordering on out-of-control. African American local leaders and participants saw them as orderly, reasonable, and legal. These competing narratives of the marches took root in white and black communities in Danville, respectively.
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.