The Role of The Press in the Rise of the Jim Crow South

Associate Professor Sid Bedingfield is co-editing and contributing to a collection of research essays on the role journalism played in the construction of the Jim Crow South at the turn of the 20th century. After the Civil War, white Democrats in the South used the only institutions they still controlled -- their newspapers -- to build white supremacist political economies and social orders across the region. Black journalists fought these regimes as they were being built. The stakes could not have been higher: the future of liberal democracy in the newly restored United States was on the line.

Journalism and Jim Crow: White Supremacy and the Black Struggle for a New America is the first extended work to examine the press as political actors who played a foundational role at this critical turning point in U.S. history. It documents the struggle between two different journalisms--a white journalism dedicated to building an anti-Black, antidemocratic America and a Black journalism dedicated to building a multiracial, fully democratic “New America." Bedingfield's co-editor on this project, Kathy Roberts Forde, is a former Hubbard School faculty member. They believe the project opens up news ways of thinking about the complicated relationship between journalism and power in a democracy. 

Bedingfield's interest in journalism’s role during times of political and cultural change began with his first book, Newspaper Wars, which argues that Black and white newspapers were political actors that not only shaped public discourse but also engaged directly in state and national politics during the mid-twentieth century. His next project carries that argument forward to look at the political role of journalism during the post-civil rights era – 1965-1985.