The late 1950s and early 1960s the period when civil rights was the most pressing issue for African Americans. They were looking to completely integrated into the American society and fully experience the liberties presented in the U.S. Constitution.
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At the same time, the Civil Rights movement was in no way an easy feat. African Americans in the northern part of the United States faced extreme poverty, did not have adequate housing, suffered from unemployment and often segregation (Gore 9). Meanwhile, African Americans in the southern part of the country continued dealing with harsh Jim Crow laws, racism, and disenfranchisement. In 1954, the Supreme Court decided to outlaw segregated public schools in the U.S. and that started the sit-in movement.
African Americans hoped that through this movement racial inequalities could be addressed. It was through extensive media coverage that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the African American protesters (in particular, members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference) could conveyed their message of liberation to the wider audiences (Gore 9). Newspaper texts wrote about the civil rights movement, and media representation of Dr. King and other participants of the movement aimed to convey a positive bias to its audience. The public was biased for and against the movement. The material from two newspapers of the period covered the 1963 Birmingham Campaign and the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March, The Atlanta Constitution (or white and moderate press) and The Atlanta Daily World (or Black and conservative). Even though the press represented Martin Luther King Jr. and his followers as lawbreakers, it created an overall positive representation of the Civil Rights Movement by emphasizing the protesters’ heroic roles, and their support by young people as well through linking the protester’s activity to religion and God. Firstly, with regard to 1963 Birmingham Campaign, The Atlanta Constitution presented Dr. King and the followers of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) as those who were breaking the law.
In headlines, for example, multiple references can be found about Dr. King and other African Americans getting arrested, being taken to jail, and getting released from jail. Headlines included: King Arrested in Birmingham;Birmingham Arrests; 700 Are Jailed In Negro Protest at Birmingham (3 May 1963); 62 Negroes Seized In Selma For Defying Sheriffs Order; Thousands Of Negroes Roam City (4 May 1963; 5 May 1963). Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., returns Saturday to racially troubled Selma to keynote a new Negro voter registration drive throughout Alabama. There was speculation the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner would face arrested for violation of a state court injunction banning mass meetings. (2 January 1965) As for The Atlanta Daily World, it represented Dr. King and SCLC members as rule-breakers.
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