41st Annual AJHA Convention
Memphis, Tennessee | Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 2022
This paper will demonstrate how the leaders of the War Refugee Board, a U.S. government agency created during World War II to rescue European Jews from Nazi oppression, tried to overcame public opinion and government bureaucracy with a public relations campaign that countered prevailing discourses related to immigration and Jews in World War II America. This study shows the potential for public relations practitioners to introduce and maintain discussions about the qualities of a public, initiate meaningful action, and negotiate the meanings of different publics and the people within them – illustrating the possibilities of government public relations beyond advocacy for policies.
Historians have described Peter Wellington Alexander as the Confederacy’s “only outstanding correspondent” and as “exceptionally clear-eyed.” He was a Georgia lawyer turned war reporter for the Savannah Republican who became known across the South by “P.W.A.,” the initials that identified his work. This paper offers a searching look at Alexander’s dispatches filed after the bloodletting at Gettysburg in July 1863 and points out they persistently and erroneously reported the battle was a draw and that Union forces had quit the field simultaneously as the Confederates. One dispatch claimed that the rebels would have won a “crushing victory” had they remained at Gettysburg a while longer. Another said of the rebels, “In no sense of the word were they beaten.” Yet another accused the Union commander of deviously backdating his messages of victory. In revisiting the correspondent’s dispatches, the paper postulates that “proto-pack journalism” may help explain Alexander’s false assertions about Gettysburg’s aftermath.
If little is known about the industry that became domestic private investigations, even less is known about the nation’s first Black private detectives. Living and working in the segregated margins of society, and taking on Black and white clients whose reputations depended on absolute confidentiality, these law enforcement pioneers have been all but forgotten by history, relegated to the footnotes of other, larger histories. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to shine a light into this most dark and secretive of aspects of the Black experience in America, the life and legacy of the Black detective, a look made possible only because of their eagerness to appear in their local Black newspapers. In particular, this paper reveals the reliance of these early investigators upon the Black press, investigators and businessmen who engaged in what later would be called public relations, brand management, marketing, and spin.
Established in 1942, the Lincoln University School of Journalism was the by-product of a Black woman’s efforts to gain admission to the graduate program at the nation’s first journalism school at the University of Missouri. While Lucile Bluford never enrolled at Lincoln University, the historically Black College and university (HBCU) in Jefferson City pioneered a legacy of Black media education reflected in its publication of “news about the Negro journalist,” scholastic journalism outreach, alumni engagement, and a nationally-recognized awards program that ran for more than half a century. The Lincoln University School of Journalism began under the interim leadership of a Black female journalist whose successor would not only be the first Black Ph.D. to teach in journalism but also serve as the journalism program’s leader for more than three decades. Its graduates filled positions of leadership in the Black press, covered watershed events during the height of the Civil Rights Movement and broke racial barriers at White-owned media outlets.
This paper presents a thematic analysis of three women-oriented publications between 1880 and 1914 for their content related to the subject of voice culture. In this period surrounded by audio technology invention and the lecture series as pastime, I argue that voice culture enjoyed a significant social salience and carried with it crucial assumptions related to gender. What can we learn about the perception of voice culture and its gendered implications for women’s “sounding voices” (Hoegarts, 2020) through these written media? How might these publications function to interpolate their women and girl readers into the personal and public work of vocal cultivation? Following my triangulated analysis of 33 articles, I offer four prominent themes from the sample which help answer these questions, including a discussion of the title quote, “so as to be heard,” which speaks to the potentially pragmatic and political connotations of women’s concern with voice culture.
As Hitler gained momentum in the 1930s, America remained indifferent to the prospect of entering another European war, passing three Neutrality Acts in Congress between 1935 and 1937. Meanwhile, a pro-Nazi movement was growing domestically, with organizations like the German-American Bund bringing together thousands of immigrant families for convivial gatherings that also incorporated the foundations of Nazism, particularly anti-Semitism. In early 1939, a controversial “Americanization” rally in New York City created an important turning point. The German-American Bund brought 22,000 members to Madison Square Garden, complete with storm troopers in uniform, Nazi flags, and the ruthless beating of a Jewish protestor. The following day, the country began its long journey of Nazi condemnation that culminated in America’s entry into World War Two. This research paper looks at over 110 newspaper and magazine articles to contribute to our understanding of how one singular event can trigger a societal change of heart.
This paper examines Albert Deane Richardson’s correspondence from a trip through the Southwest in a series of descriptive travel letters headlined “Jottings from the Far West” in the Boston Journal in 1859-1860 with the aim of discovering what Richardson knew and thought about Mexicans and New Mexicans, how he addressed issues of race and ethnicity, and how he built an understanding of relations between the Euro-Americans who colonized the Southwest and the Mexicans and Native Americans whom the colonizers sought to dominate. Using as a lens David Spurr’s modes of colonial rhetoric, the project’s findings shed light on the antebellum foundations of current anti-Latino stereotypes. The most dominant modes in Richardson’s letters at a tactical level were negation, debasement, and eroticization, while surveillance, naturalization and affirmation were deployed at a strategic level.
This paper shows the black press publication Wisconsin Enterprise-Blade, under the leadership of its publisher, J. Anthony Josey, constructed a political identity for its readers linking the group’s trajectory to collective economic and labor gains in the years preceding the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal era. Through an analysis of Wisconsin Enterprise-Blade editions spanning from 1925-1932, I show Josey regularly highlighted economic and labor issues he considered paramount to the advancement of Milwaukee’s black community. Further, I argue this reporting primed Blade readers to interpret the New Deal and the ideals of social liberalism it bore with it as the best possible way to achieve economic and workplace prosperity and embrace the identity Josey imagined for them.
The growing literature on cultural depictions of the White working-class in American popular music has touched on issues of copyright, compensation, and residual ownership of song rights. This study expands upon existing work by conducting case studies on three influential figures in American music history: Stephen Foster, Woody Guthrie, and Phil Walden. Though each of these figures produced popular music in different historical and cultural contexts, the music they produced depicted, and was marketed to, the White working-class. Interestingly, each of these figures also struggled to effectively assert and manage the copyrights in their respective works, both within formal music industry structures and to their audiences. By situating White, working-class musicians as simultaneously less privileged than industry elites and more privileged than other marginalized groups, this study may help to illuminate a greater understanding of the ways that race, gender, and class intersect in American popular culture.
Madeleine Liseblad, California State University, Long Beach, and Thomas Mascaro (emeritus), Bowling Green State University, "‘Tree Rings’ of Journalism History: NBC Trade Releases Document the Hostile Climate for Women in the Sixties”
This research study concentrates on a discrete period, the 1960s, reflected in a select collection of NBC trade releases placed in the context of the growing women’s movement and amplified by change agents. While a rich body of literature documents women’s history in journalism, this paper focuses on the language of NBC releases that comprised the constituent elements of an atmosphere that suffocated women striving to work in the industry. It offers another clue in the history of women in broadcasting concerning how the credibility of journalists, as compared to entertainment television personalities, contrasted professionalism with tawdry chauvinism in ways that helped shift momentum for change. The study shows how some women recognized the moment’s importance and aroused others to unify the aims and strategies of the movement. The releases bespoke a sexist network culture, but they also revealed how newswomen engaged patriarchy on their own terms.
During World War II, the Black press became the target of suspicion for its advocacy of full citizenship for Black Americans while the United States was fighting an international war for freedom. Although some of this scrutiny came from the government, painting the Black press as an internal threat to the war effort, members of the white press also raised pointed questions about whether the Black press, with its agitation against the racial status quo, compromised national unity. This paper focuses on 1942 and 1943, after the launch of the Double V campaign, and examines in historical context the syndicated columns of Westbrook Pegler as well as national magazine articles of newspaper editor Virginius Dabney and Black commentators who responded. The analysis demonstrates that patriotism was pretext and rationalization for an effort to thwart the civil rights agenda of the Black press at that historical juncture.
Using Alexis de Tocqueville’s reflections on the associational press as a guide, this paper analyzes the newspaper the Inner City Voice, the official outlet of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in Detroit. The Inner City Voice is viewed as a 20th century example of an associational press outlet akin to the outlets assessed by Tocqueville in the 19th century: advocating for and built upon democratic principles, the Inner City Voice was both a ‘newspaper that made an association’ and, in step with the emergence of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, an ‘association that made an newspaper’. This dialectical pairing offered by Tocqueville prompts the author’s framing of the Inner City Voice as a prominent example of a newspaper that both rhetorically advocates for the particular interests of Detroit’s Black community while simultaneously offering material infrastructure for the organization and mobilization of that community to advance its demands.
Claire Rounkles, University of Missouri, “‘Am I Not Woman Enough?’: The Use of Black Feminism Methodology in Historical Analysis—a Case Study of Tennessee Mainstream Newspapers’ Reaction to Ida B. Wells's Anti-Lynching Campaign from 1893 to 1894”
While many scholars have focused on the biographical story of Ida B. Wells, relatively few have studied the animosity or vigor that her aggressors used her womanhood as a point of inferiority. This study focuses on the campaign against Ida B. Wells, which mainstream white newspapers in Memphis, Tennessee, participated in following the destruction of the newspaper she was the editor and co-owner of, The Free Speech and Headlight. Implementing a theoretical and methodological standpoint of Black Feminism Theory and Methodology allowed the researcher to view the multi-faceted avenues the White mainstream press used to cancel out Ida B. Wells voice. Specifically, when it came to her being a woman.
Inflaming public opinion about narcotics was the collective goal of a cottage industry of anti-narcotics organizers who emerged from the battlefields of the war on alcohol. The most famous was Richmond P. Hobson who used newspapers, radio, published propaganda, speaking tours and networking through civic organizations to agitate for reform. This conference paper draws on archival and newly accessible electronic sources to draw a picture of Hobson’s antinarcotics propagandizing and put it in historical context.
In the mid-1990s, Democrats attempted to counter the popularity of Rush Limbaugh and other conservative talk radio hosts following the Republican sweep of the 1994 midterms elections. The Clinton White House experimented with a radio outreach initiative, and some congressional Democrats tried going on popular shows such as the one hosted by Don Imus. Meanwhile, former Senator Gary Hart of Colorado and former governors Mario Cuomo of New York and L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia launched their own talk radio shows. This study examines the reasons behind these Democratic broadcast efforts between 1994 and 1996, the content and style of the different shows, and why they ultimately failed to overcome the Republican advantage in talk radio.
In May 1970, 147 newswomen working at Time Inc.—which included Time, Life, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated—sued the magazine giant for sex discrimination. This classaction lawsuit trailed just two months behind a similar suit at Newsweek, which has been welldocumented. Additionally, a 1974 lawsuit at the New York Times has also been given scholarly attention. However, the story of Time Inc. has yet to be told. The suit is significant and helped bring gender diversify to the magazine industry. Relying on oral history interviews, this research details the lives of Time Inc. newswomen, coalition building, the lawsuit, and settlement.
This mixed-methods study contextualizes twenty-first century reporting on environment through John Wesley Powell’s 1890 plan to reshape land use policy in the American West. Using qualitative historical analysis combined with quantitative content analysis, it investigates the frames used in covering debate over Powell’s proposal between January and August 1890. This analysis includes 798 articles from 281 newspapers across the United States. In addition to providing a thorough analysis of news coverage surrounding Powell’s proposal—which alone fills a conspicuous gap in researchers’ understanding of the history of climate coverage in the United States—this study finds coverage overwhelmingly focused on a political conflict frame that deemphasized the substance both of Powell’s proposal and the alternatives offered by his opponents. Furthermore, this research illustrates to historians the usefulness of applying contemporary frames to historical questions and highlights the partisan sectional identity dominant in the American West in the 1890s.