Sunday, May 2, 2010

"The Children's Miracle"

I just recently had to write a research paper for my New South class. We were allowed to pick our own topic, something within the scope of the class. This doesn’t really narrow down the possibilities; the class time period is from 1865 to present. It also doesn’t help how difficult it is for me to make decisions regarding topics for papers.

With that, I went in to see my teacher, and he suggested I focus on something with the media to satisfy my second major. Thus, I settled on the media coverage of the Birmingham Campaign of 1963.

May 2 marks the anniversary of the Children’s Crusade, the portion of the campaign when school children began marching and filling the jails in Birmingham. This step became a necessity because of the low adult turn out for the earlier portion of the movement. In order to be effective the Civil Rights leaders realized they needed to effectively flood the system; have so many jailed no one else could be arrested because of the space issue.

In addition to the different phases of the campaign, I learned a lot about the media coverage of the movement. Initially the media coverage (and when I say this I mean the northern perspective) was against the Civil Rights movement. At the time the Cold War was in full swing, and journalists thought the movement leaders were working with the Communists.

The New York Times and Washington Post exert internal influence within the media world. If these papers cover an event, local papers will be more inclined to cover the same story because of it’s importance. Life Magazine also covered the movement with three startling pictures taken by photographer Charles Moore. Thus, my ultimate thesis was the coverage, whether negative or positive, was good because more Americans became exposed to the story and pictures photographers saw.

It was the images from the movement which probably struck the reader more than the articles. After the Birmingham Campaign President Kennedy decided to push Civil Rights legislation to end Jim Crow laws in the South and similar practices occurring in other parts of the country.

These three images I've included were three pictures from the May 17, 1963 edition of "Life Magazine." They are also three of the most famous images from the movement. One thing that bothers me is all the pictures featured older students or adults, which ignored the younger children participating in the movement. While it is an ethical decision many journalists make to exclude children under the age of 18, it is my opinion that the publications excluded a large part of the story by not picturing the younger movement participants.

This is just a summary of what I discussed in my paper, but again I found it fitting that I could summarize a bit of it for my blog this week. I did enjoy writing the paper; it fused my two majors and I enjoyed reading historical sources on the movement and journalism sources reflecting on the coverage of the movement.

This is my last week of class! I’m excited, but a bit sad too. I really did enjoy my classes. I’ve also realized I still haven’t posted anything from my Ancient Israel class, so I may need to tie in that topic for next week. Hope everyone has a great week!

1 comment:

  1. You say there were younger kids... I knew they had high schoolers help, but how much younger were the ones that helped?