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BROWN AND THE TIMES:
A RHETORICAL EXEGESIS
JASON SCOTT ANDREWS
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS IN MASS COMMUNICATION
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Jason Scott Andrews
This tome is dedicated to Mom,
CxpIOTov I2XAov S'Apv.
The author would like to acknowledge the wisdom of Professors H. Wayne Guin,
for showing me that learning lasts forever, Karelisa Hartigan, for demonstrating the
elegance and timelessness of Ancient Greece, and Kurt Kent, for taking on creativity
when others would not.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv
A B STR A C T ........................................................................................ .............. viii
1 HIGH COURT BANS SCHOOL SEGREGATION ..................................................1
T h e D e cisio n ............................................ ................................ 2
The New York Times ........................... ... .................................
Im petu s ............................................................. .5
2 REV IEW OF LITERA TU RE ................................................ ............................. 7
R h etoric D efin ed .............. ....................................... ........ ........ ......... .. ...
R hetorical C om m unication .................................................... ................................ 11
Practical Democracy: Ritual or Transmission? ................................................12
Rhetorical Reconstitution .............................................. ............... 15
Relevant Literature ........................................... ................... 16
R research Q question ...................... ........ ................ .. .. .. ........ ......... 17
3 M E T H O D .............................................................................19
Text and Context ...................................................................19
In trin sic A n a ly sis ............................................................................................ 19
Extrinsic A nalysis.................................................. 21
W alk her's T h esis .............. .................. ........... ........ .. ....... .... ........ .... .. 2 2
R resolved ...................................................... .. .. ... .... .... .... 24
Stu dy P aram eters ................................................................2 5
The Four Causes .................. .................. ............... 26
S u a so ry P o ten tial ............................................................................................ 2 7
S tan d ard s o f Q u ality .............................................................................................. 2 8
4 TH E N EW Y O RK TIM E S ......................................................................... .. 34
T traditional P rinciples......... .................................................................. .......... . 35
E evolution ..................................................... ................... ........ 38
B u sin ess P practices .....................................................................................4 0
O organizational Structure............................................................. ............... 4 1
Em pow erm ent ....................................................................... .. 42
Intelligent R leadership .................................... .... ........ .... ........ .. ...... .... 45
A ccu racy ................................................................................ 4 6
N ew s-gathering Capacity ............................................................................. 48
D epth of coverage .................. ...................................... .. ........ .... 49
E d ito rial S tan c e ............................................................................................. 5 3
T he W ashington B ureau ..................................................................... ..................56
N e w s .......................................................................................................6 0
C o lu m n s ......................................................................................................... 6 2
C o lle c tiv e ly .....................................................................................................6 4
5 AMERICAN SEGREGATION .................................................66
The N ineteenth Century ....................................................................66
A F reed o m o f S o rts ....................................................................................... 6 7
R e c o n stru ctio n ............................................................................................... 6 9
N eg ro E du cation .............................................................................. 7 0
R e d e m p tio n .................................................................................................... 7 2
Ju m p Jim C ro w .............................................................................................. 7 3
Political W rangling.............................................. 74
Separate B ut E qual ............................................................76
A B lo o d y S h irt............................................................................................... 7 7
The Twentieth Century ................................................................. ......... 78
F olkw ay s ................................................................................................... ...... 79
T ak in g S id es ................................................................8 0
A G great M ig ratio n ......................................................................................... 82
N ew N egro M ovem ent ......................................................... 83
A N ew D e a l ................................................................................................... 8 6
An Am erican Dilem m a........................................ ......... 88
Another Great Migration .................................................94
To Secure These R ights ............................................................... .. ...... 96
The Fight For D segregated Schools ................................................................. 99
T he N A A C P ...................... ...... .........................................103
Legal Action, Round One: The Graduate Schools ........... ... ...........104
Legal Action Round II: The Lower Courts ................. ................. ...108
The Psycho-Social A rgum ents ....................................................... 109
Legal Action, Round III: The Supreme Court ............................... 114
Unanim ity ............... ......... .. .................. .......... ...... 120
6 MAY 18, 1954: A CLOSE READING ..............................................................123
P age O ne .............................................................................................123
Page One, Form ally ................................. .......................... ....... 123
Page One, M aterially ................................. .......................... ...... 127
The R est of the Story ................................................................................ 133
F orm al C on stitu ents..................................................................................... 134
Story ty p es ........................................................................................... 134
C characteristic headlines......................................... .......... ............... 140
P h o to g ra p h s .......................................................................................... 14 3
M material C on stitu ents............................................ ....................................... 144
Ideas and argum ents ........................................................ ............. 147
R e a d e rsh ip ............................................................................................ 1 5 3
R hetorical m echanism s ........................................ ......................... 154
Paradigm s .................................................................. .. ......... 154
E n th y m em e s ......................................................................................... 1 5 6
Representation .................. .......................... ..... ... ............... 160
7 THE NEW YORK TIMES IN AMERICAN SOCIETY ......................................163
M multiple R hetors ........1.................... .................... 163
A N ew Y ork Tim es Ethos................ ......... ... ................. ................. ............... 167
The Ends of Journalism ................. ....... ......... .... ............. .................. 170
L im itation s of th e Stu dy ............................................. ........................................ 17 5
Future Considerations ................................... ......... ............ ............ 178
C o d a ............................................................... ....... ...............................................1 7 9
BROWN COVERAGE, THE NEW YORK TIMES, MAY 18, 1954 ............................ 181
L IST O F R E F E R E N C E S ......... ................. ................................................................. 182
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ...... ........ ................... ............................. 194
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Degree of Master of Arts in Mass Communication
BROWN AND THE TIMES:
A RHETORICAL EXEGESIS
Jason Scott Andrews
Chair: Kurt Kent
Major Department: Mass Communication
This study examines the New York Times'May 18, 1954, coverage of the
landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court decision of the day
before outlawing legally mandated segregation in public schools. It takes a rhetorical-
critical perspective, an avenue relatively unexplored in journalism research. By
grounding the "text" firmly in the fully developed "context" of American segregation in
1954, the study evaluates the rhetorical choices made by the Times in reconstituting its
Brown coverage. Formal and material constituents of the coverage work both to the
benefit and detriment of the edition's "suasory potential," but the single most persuasive
constituent here may be a certain Times ethos, founded, in part, on the collected wisdom
of others. Finally, the study urges the New York Times of 1954 (and by implication now)
to take up the rhetorical mantle bestowed upon it by its readers and rich resources, and
assume the inspired voice of those it quotes, for the sake of practical democracy.
HIGH COURT BANS SCHOOL SEGREGATION
The purpose of this study is to abridge the conspicuous gap between rhetoric and
newspaper journalism. When as now a 24-hour news cycle, technology, and talking heads
encroach on its turf, the steadfast newspaper safeguards its most precious commodity-
its words. When a subject is of profound social import, as the May 17, 1954, Oliver
Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, KS Supreme Court decision, the defense
becomes even more appropriate.
Rhetoric and newspaper journalism are fundamentally related but woefully
unacquainted. Hence, the primary concern of this thesis is to illustrate that compatibility.
Using the New York Times as a celebrated exemplar, and its May 18, 1954, Brown school
desegregation decision coverage as a specimen, this study proposes to consider the
rhetorical constituents and implications of a significant act of newspaper journalism.
The study proceeds in several stages. After settling on a precise conception of rhetoric
(Chapter 2) and rhetorical criticism (Chapter 3), it will establish solid contexts of The
New York Times, a significant rhetor (quite literally, he who would use rhetoric) in May,
1954 (Chapter 4), and of American segregation (Chapter 5). Then, in Chapter 6, it
grounds a critical reading of the May 18, 1954, Brown coverage in the Times in light of
these contexts, evaluating the rhetorical choices made by the Times. Finally, in Chapter 7,
it draws conclusions regarding the "suasory potential" of that particular edition of The
New York Times, as well as implications for the larger contexts of journalism and society.
May 17, 2004, marks the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark
decision outlawing legally mandated school segregation. A composite of five separate
cases, the Court's unanimous ruling applied to more than 10 million children in single
race schools in twenty-one states and the District of Columbia, roughly 40% of nation's
public school students (Themstrom & Themstrom, 1997, p. 98). The next day, Harlem's
Negro newspaper, the Amsterdam News, touted the decision as "the greatest victory for
the Negro people since the Emancipation Proclamation" (Patterson, 2001, p. xiv). The
day after that, Ralph Ellison wrote in a letter, "[A]nother battle of the Civil War has been
won .... What a wonderful world of possibilities are unfolded for the children"
(Callahan, 1999, pp. 38-39).
The decision was a victory for America, too. Historian Mark Whitman ranks
Brown as "probably the most far-reaching and the most morally significant Supreme
Court decision in American history" (1993, p. xvi). Legal Scholar J. Harvie Wilkinson III
adds, "Very little could have been accomplished in mid-century America without the
Supreme Court. Brown may be the most important political, social, and legal event in
America's twentieth-century history" (Wilkinson, 1979, pp. 3, 6).
As may be expected, the ruling was met with an equal share of resistance. Two
separate Brown histories concur, "no ruling in the twentieth century was more hotly
debated" (Themstrom & Thernstrom, 1997, p. 97-98; see also Patterson, 2001, p. xiv).
Prominent Southern demagogues, like Mississippi State Supreme Court Justice Thomas
P. Brady, commemorated the day as "Black Monday" (1991). Propped on old sturdy
arguments against intermarriage, some, like Governor Herman Talmadge of Georgia, felt
desegregation would surely lead to "the mongrelization of the races" (Patterson, 2001, p.
xix). Bryant Bowles, president of the newly formed National Association for the
Advancement of White People, remarked in October of the same year, "My daughters
will never attend a school with Negroes so long as there is breath in my body and
gunpowder will burn" (Patterson, 2001, p. xix). Nevertheless, this study is not about the
range or intensity of response to the decision; neither is it about the days or months after
the decision. It is about one particular response one particular day.
The New York Times
On May 18, 1954, the day following the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of
Education desegregation ruling, the New York Times ran the main headline:
HIGH COURTBANS SCHOOL SEGREGATION,
9-TO-O DECISION GRANTS TIME TO COMPLY
The edition featured four front-page articles, ten pages of news coverage in various
formats (pp. 14-23), an unsigned editorial (p. 28), and a signed commentary (p. 28)
regarding the decision. Certainly, this was not the first subject The Times had treated with
multiple stories and pages. But it did mark, perhaps, a change in the journalistic climate.
Brown historian Peter Irons reports, "Hardly any of the newspapers and magazines
through which most whites viewed the world, in the years before television became the
leading source of news, took a critical look at segregated schools" (2002, p. 41). The
Times was not immune to this charge: Irons goes on to specifically indict the Times'
sparse coverage of the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision upholding
segregation on public transportation:
The Court handed down fifty-two rulings that day, and three of these-dealing with
the laws of contract, inheritance, and copyright-were reported on the front page of
the New York Times. The editors relegated the Plessy decision to a third-page
column on railroad news, between cases on train routes and improvement bonds, ..
[failing to acknowledge] the dissent of Justice John Marshall Harlan, which the
Times did not consider news fit to print. (p. 28)
At any rate, in the years leading up to the Brown decision (1950-1954), the Times ran a
dozen editorials specifically regarding school segregation; coincidentally, another 31
editorials dealt with segregation in South Africa.
That we mention the Times' coverage as a benchmark of journalism is telling. The
newspaper has earned a reputation as a model and as an agenda-setter, throughout its
history. Two months after Adolph S. Ochs' 1896 purchase and turnaround of The Times,
an editorial from The Minneapolis Sunday Times confessed,
The truth is, and we take sincere pleasure in declaring it, that The New York Times
is not only managed with unusual ability in its business department but editorially
is without a superior in the United States. There is no other journal in the
country that approaches more nearly the ideal daily newspaper. (Berger, 1970, p.
By 1951, the Society of the Silurians, made up of twenty-five year veteran New York
editors and reporters, cited the Times as
Learned, but not pedantic; objective, but never indifferent; detailed and
painstaking, but not dull; powerful, but never oppressive; devoted to truth, but not
intolerant; forthright in politics, but rarely partisan; world-wide in vision, coverage
and influence, but always American.
Respected, vigorous, steadily growing in usefulness; clear-eyed observer of social
progress; advocate of alert citizenship and conscience in government. (Berger, p.
More recent studies identify the New York Times' significant readership. Wiess's
(1974) study found that "What America's Leaders Read" most in common is the New
York Times: "It comes closest to being the national newspaper of the elite" (p. 5).
Robinson & Swinehart (1968) found that 50 per cent of the nation's elites ("professors,
journalists, social commentators, business leaders, and political party influentials,"
comprising 0.25% of the population) read The Times, while no more than 5 per cent of
three other audience groups did so (p. 47).
The Times' potential for influence demands that we consider how it exerts that
influence. If, as James Carey says, "[J]ournalism criticism, properly conceived, is the
criticism of language," (1983, p. 124), the question is best answered through rhetorical
inquiry. In the early 1970s, the issue had been raised: "In this era, when the broadcast
account of a speech, for example, may have far more impact than the speech itself, it is
terribly important that our rhetorical studies at least take media processes into account"
(Becker, 1971, p. 29). The 1970 Wingspread Conference of the National Development
Project on Rhetoric, in which Becker took part, adopted a "consensus judgment" that
The technology of the twentieth century has created so many new channels and
techniques of communication, and the problems confronting contemporary
societies are so related to communicative methods and contents that it is imperative
that rhetorical studies be broadened to explore communicative procedures and
practices not traditionally covered. (Lucaites et al., 1999, p. 10)
The Alliance of Rhetorical Societies, formed in 2003, would virtually repeat the
Wingspread mantra in the Preamble to its constitution, found on its website:
The varied disciplinary locales for research and teaching in rhetorical studies has
made it difficult for scholars to interact with those outside their typical spheres of
affiliation, to establish an awareness among themselves and with others regarding
their collective interests, and to shape an inclusive agenda of scholarly activity.
Regrettably, academic boundaries and positivistic leanings have somewhat stagnated the
presumed confluence between rhetoric and emerging communications.
Mass media in general and journalism in particular fall comfortably within the
domain of rhetoric, and as the next chapter will show, some considerable rhetorical
strides have been made across fields in mass communication. Unfortunately, a search of
various research websites (Questia, ETD, E-Journals, and First Search) yields
comparatively little rhetorical research on journalism, let alone the newspaper subset. The
present study seeks, first of all, to explore and occupy that territory. It also seeks to
illuminate "an unusual situation important in its own right"-here, the New York Times
as a significant rhetor (Zarefsky, 1998, p. 25).
A rhetorical perspective adds, quite literally, significance and meaning to current
journalism research. By focusing particularly on elements of "interpretive news," for
example, the thesis will answer Daniel's (2002) call to examine rhetorically news
"[g]enres that ethically and effectively blend what journalists now separate as opinion
and fact" (p. 518). Ultimately, this thesis will find in the name of rhetoric and democracy
a mandate that newspaper journalism, particularly that of the New York Times, assume
the high rhetorical position it has been afforded.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Rhetoric, part of the trivium of classical Greek education, along with grammar
and logic, has enjoyed an illustrious but contested history since its earliest conception
around 400 B.C. (Kennedy, 1997, pp. 4-5). Most contemporary media consumers are
familiar with its negative connotation, particularly in the political arena, finding it paired
with terms like "mere" or "empty." One scholar defines rhetoric along those lines as "the
dissembling, manipulative abuse of linguistic resources for self-serving ends" (Wardy,
1996, p. 56). This slighted reputation, a misapprehension, is also a product of classical
times-specifically, of Plato. Certainly we must not regard Plato as infallible, but his take
merits consideration in framing an accurate, useful conception of rhetoric. His reflection,
together with Aristotle's subsequent treatment of the subject, represent the classical
groundwork against which all other scholars have levied their own definitions of rhetoric.
This chapter will develop an accurate, useful conception of rhetoric by considering a
dialectic of opinion, from classical and contemporary times. There we will find a locus
around which communication scholars may take full advantage of rhetoric's richness and
Many scholars attribute the coinage of the term "rhetoric" to Plato (Kennedy,
1997). He takes up the subject most conspicuously in two major dialogues-Gorgias and
Phaedrus. In the first, he indicts Gorgias, the rhetorician, and sophistry in general as
deceptive and counter to the noble aims of philosophy, his stock in trade. In the latter, he
continues the argument, but then offers a method by which a "true" art of rhetoric may be
attained: first, one must know absolutely everything about the subject on which he would
speak; then, he must know the nature of all human souls to whom he would speak; finally
he must match the proper speech with the proper soul (Phaedrus, trans. 1956, 277C).
Only after these labors would a speaker be properly equipped to influence the soul
through words" (Phaedrus, 261B), as he defines rhetoric. That no one might undertake
such a feat is his intention, perhaps-that is, until Aristotle, his legendary student, did just
Aristotle, in the Rhetoric, considered to this day the seminal work in the field,
executes Plato's recipe (as in the Gorgias, Plato associates rhetoric with "mere cookery").
After serving up his classic definition of rhetoric as "the ability to see in each case the
available means of persuasion" (trans. 1991, 2.1.1), he takes up in three books
"absolutely everything" about the subject on which he would speak, in this case rhetoric
itself. He delimits three means of persuasion (ethos, pathos, and logos), three species of
rhetoric (deliberative,forensic, and epideictic), topics appropriate to each specie
(common and special), two forms such topics may take (paradigms and celmyicine,\),
credibility in the speaker, emotions in the hearers, and in the third book, a glance at style.
It is generally acknowledged that Aristotle had thus "carr[ied] to substantial fulfillment
part of the promise of the Platonic Phaedrus" (Grimaldi, 1972, p. 33), surpassing it, no
doubt, in notoriety.
Welldon, in 1886, celebrated Aristotle's Rhetoric as "being perhaps a solitary
instance of a book which not only begins a science but completes it" (Hunt, 1920, p. 33),
while W. Rhys Roberts, one of a handful of the Rhetoric's translators, cites the work as
"the most philosophical (or, scientific) work ever composed on the subject" (Aristotle,
trans. 1960, p. xii). The Rhetoric provides much of the terminology by which the art is
discussed even today, regardless of the credence given its ideas. Thonssen and Baird, in
their 1948 textbook, declared,
Aristotle's Rhetoric is the true pioneer in the field, the one upon which practically
all subsequent treatises rely to a considerable extent. Knowing it, one knows
much of what was written on the subject after Aristotle's time, and is in a favored
position to appraise the theory and criticism of public address to this very hour.
(Thonssen, Baird, & Baden, 1970, pp. 75, 81)
Aristotle's treatment attracts as many critics as defenders. Many scholars, for
example, question the unity of the three books, noting contradictions in thought and
probable lapses of time in authorship. Walzer, Tiffany, and Gross (2000), Sprute (1994),
McCabe (1994), Brunschwig (1996), Irwin (1996), and Wardy (1996), among others,
have examined such issues of late. Others cite inconsistencies in Aristotle's approbation
of emotional (as opposed to logical) means of persuasion. How, for example, does
Aristotle evaluate the rhetorical success of the sophist, as Burke (1973) would of Hitler?
In this case, as many others, a closer reading of the Rhetoric reveals Aristotle's defense:
[O]ne should be able to argue persuasively on either side of a question, just as in
the use of syllogisms, not that we may actually do both (for one should not
persuade what is debased) but in order that it may not escape our notice what the
real state of the case is and that we ourselves may be able to refute if another uses
speech unjustly. (trans. 1991, 1.1.12)
Other critiques of the Rhetoric question its applicability to modern times, pointing out
advances in psychology, and still others disagree on its scope-whether the work treats
rhetorical invention alone, or rhetorical criticism, too. In the next chapter, one recent
persuasive argument weighs heavily against all these critiques.
At any rate, if, as Sproule (1988) warns, there is a difference in classical and
modern rhetoric, then we would be remiss to not consider contemporary definitions.
Since the 1940s, dame rhetoric has been cast in many roles. One of the most cited
contemporary definitions assigns rhetoric the "function of adjusting ideas to people and
of people to ideas" (Bryant, 1953, p. 413). A key textbook from the 1940s sees rhetoric as
"a means of realizing desirable ends in political action" (Thonssen, Baird, & Baden,
1970, p. 555), a reading equally as precarious. Another scholar from the 1970
Wingspread Conference observes rhetoric "whenever they act on other men by means of
a discourse or are acted upon" (Perelman, 1971, p. 119). These conceptions adopt a
"transmission" view of communication and do little to salvage rhetoric's beleaguered
reputation. These functions seem sinister and might be of particular interest to scholars of
ideology or hegemony.
Those definitions that uplift, if not overreach, the aim of rhetoric boast it "can not
only be a way of arguing but can also generate its own way of knowing, its own kind of
epistemic processes" (Enos & Lauer, 1998, p. 207), while others call on rhetoric "to
interpret and make meaningful what is in the process of happening" (Andrews, 1983, p.
9), giving it the power to catalogue history. Others attach an ethical, if not moral, purpose
to rhetoric. Richard Weaver, for example, proposes that rhetoric not only "tries to bring
opinion into closer line with the truth which dialectic pursues" (1995/1964, p. 70), but
that "at its truest seeks to perfect men by showing them better versions of themselves,
links in that chain extending up toward the ideal" (1970/1953, p. 82). Likewise, Farrell
(1991) applauds rhetoric's Burkean dramatic potential as "the performance and
enactment of our sense of the appropriate with responsive interested others" (p. 86).
Somewhere between these extremes lie definitions marked by neutrality,
vagueness, and a near-unlimited scope. Here, for example, one may witness rhetoric
"whenever an individual must communicate, or chooses to communicate, by word,
speech, and gesture in his customary dealings with others" (Wallace, 1971, p. 1). For
Kennedy (1984), "discourse is rhetorical insofar as it functions (or seeks to function) as a
fitting response to a situation which needs and invites it" (p. 6). Brockriede (1966) holds
rhetoric to be "a theory to explain how contemporary man interacts symbolically and
purposively with other men" (p. 34).
As we shall see in the course of this study, each of these definitions is compatible
with an Aristotelian conception of rhetoric, or any other. Rhetoric may, in fact, perform
each of these roles simultaneously. Shades of difference emerge theoretically, but not
practically. However, since what we seek is a workable definition possessed of both
currency and broad relevance, Brockriede's may prove to be the most valuable, and will
be assumed as we embark. Some assumptions about rhetorical communication, then, need
to be laid bare before we consider how rhetoric works.
Most scholars of rhetoric, regardless of their feelings on Aristotle, agree on the
complexity of the communication environment in which rhetoric operates. Becker (1971)
alludes to a communication "mosaic [that] consists of an immense number of fragments
or bits of information on an immense number of topics scattered over time and space
and modes of communication" from which an individual must choose relevant pieces of
information (p. 33). Ultimately, in the total speaking or writing situation, "effect" is the
one aspect over which the rhetor has no direct control. Thus, it must be first
In any dynamic situation, therefore, a particular speech [or writing] is seldom, if
ever the sole force operating to produce a certain effect. Instead, it is one of many
agencies acting as determinants of change. It functions along with natural forces
and other social instruments in a complex interrelation. (Thonssen, Baird, & Baden,
A limited effects model of rhetorical communication need not diminish the significance
of rhetoric, if it is "studied as a force in history ... less because it produces tangible
effects than because it alters an ongoing social conversation" (Zarefsky, 1998, p. 29).
This last conception delineates a clear function of rhetoric in the total communication
environment. It also signifies rhetoric's essential role in practical democracy.
Practical Democracy: Ritual or Transmission?
Rhetoric as oratory was born in the Greek polis, incidentally the birthplace of
democracy. Rhetoric was in fact the manner in which the law and order, as well as
entertainment, were sustained in those earliest societies. In our own times where the oral
tradition is less and less apparent, scholars like Dewey (1916) and Lippmann (1939) have
grappled with how to realize the "Golden Age" of democracy once again. Vague notions
of "a marketplace of ideas" and "truth emerging from the forum" do little to firm up the
practical nature of democracy.
It seems counterproductive, in conceiving of democracy, to subscribe to what
James Carey (1975) calls a "transmission view of communication," whose end is the
dissemination of news and knowledge. Instead, democracy seems to warrant a "ritual
view of communication," calling up terms like "sharing, participation, association,
fellowship, and the possession of a common faith ... the maintenance of society in time .
. the representation of shared beliefs" (p. 6). The ritual view of communication rarely
occurs in American culture, Carey writes, "because the concept of culture is such a weak
and evanescent notion" there (p. 7).
The pejorative view of rhetoric assumes the form of "transmission" or
"persuasion." Certainly, today's rhetorical scholars recognize many more functions of
rhetoric than one: a rhetorician may, as one collection goes, warn, reassure, report,
announce, command, reprimand, predict, admit, suggest, propose, thank, promise,
welcome, express regret or sympathy, complain, criticize, exhort, encourage, excuse,
justify, or comment (Wallace, 1970, p. 80). But in the final analysis, it may be argued,
whether he predicts, exhorts, comments, or the like, the rhetor hopes the "message" will
be persuasive-that is that the reader or listener will be persuaded to accept a prediction,
act on an exhortation, or internalize the view of the comment. Rhetoric in a "transmission
view," then, has one comprehensive function: persuasion.
This conception resonates with the 2003 Project For Excellence in Journalism
edict to journalists, found on the project website, that "[t]he central purpose of journalism
is to provide citizens with accurate, reliable information they need to function in a free
society." The statement goes on to highlight some of the favorite cliches on democracy,
"citizens having reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context... a fair and reliable
account ... [t]he truth, over time, emerging] from the forum ... an ever greater flow of
data." Thus, the provision of information alone, assuming it is persuasive, contributes to
"a generally accessible fund of knowledge that has the potential to serve as public
knowledge" (Daniel, 2002, p. 514). In this manner, a transmission view of rhetoric carries
legitimate social value, in contradistinction to its pejorative reputation, and it may be
examined as such fruitfully.
Still, such a notion of rhetoric and democracy is precarious and intangible. The
concept is hard to realize beyond the pages of great essays, and hardly recognizes
individual intentions and decisions in the process. Dewey (1916) proposes one rationale,
though, which may be more substantial and inclusive: "Men live in a community in virtue
of the things which they have in common. What they must have in common ... are aims,
beliefs, aspirations, knowledge-a common understanding .... Consensus demands
communication" (pp. 5, 6). Thus, democracy is "communicated" between people. How?
The answer was clear to the Greeks: through rhetoric, which everywhere operates on the
assumption that the topoi (TOTroI), or sites, of persuasion are the beliefs and ideas we
(rhetor and reader) hold in common. Thus, both rhetoric and democracy find a
comfortable home in Carey's "ritual view" of communication, in "the sacred ceremony
which draws persons together in fellowship and commonality" (1975, p. 6). Still, ours is
an age and culture of transmission, and we must somehow reconcile Carey's two views,
if we are to benefit fully and practically from rhetoric. Chapter 7 of the present study will
speak to that end.
In 1994, Robert Ivie prompted his fellow scholars of rhetoric to remember "the
field's prevailing assumptions about the symbolic transaction of social reality and the
discursive formation of political privilege" (p. 382). Consistent with rhetoric, then, is a
view of communication as "a symbolic process whereby reality is produced, maintained,
repaired, and transformed" (Carey, 1975, p. 10): To study rhetorical communication is to
study "the actual social process wherein significant symbolic forms are created,
apprehended, and used" (p. 16). Ontologically, the corresponding historical realism
dictates that reality is "shaped by a congeries of social, political, cultural, economic, and
gender factors" (Guba & Lincoln, 1994, p. 205). Rhetorical criticism, the method of our
present study, takes all of these into account in its search for "the ways specific discursive
strategies and textual dynamics shape and reshape the contours of political concepts and
ideas" (Jasinski, 1972, p. 74). It remains to discover how rhetoric shapes reality, in
particular, the reality of desegregation portrayed on May 18, 1954, in the New York
In a newspaper, each news story, editorial, or column in some way alters or
redefines the social conversation and the individual's role in it. White (1990), along these
lines, suggests "a way of reading a text as rhetorically constitutive: as an act of
expression that reconstitutes its own resources of language and in doing so constitutes a
community, directly with its reader and indirectly with those others in the world about
whom it speaks" (p. 101). First, then, there is a field of "resources of language," a "range
of linguistic usages available to those who would address a historically particular
audience as a public ... [and] argumentative forms that demarcate the symbolic
boundaries within which public advocates find themselves flexibly constrained to
operate" (Hasian, Condit, & Lucaites, 1996, pp. 326-327; hence, "legal rhetoric" or
"Black rhetoric"). From this field of "the available means of persuasion," to borrow a
phrase, the rhetor selects, presumably, that which is most "persuasive," and then
reconstitutes his resources of language (thereby constituting multiple symbolic
communities). Thus, for a newspaper or any other rhetor, an act of rhetoric may be seen
as an act of "reconstitution." It is the journalistic act of rhetoric with which this thesis is
concerned, for the sake of journalism, rhetoric, and, ultimately, democracy. Each of these
will stand to gain theoretical and practical insight from our explication of one such act.
Since the 1970s, studies of rhetoric-from rhetorical and communications
scholars alike-have examined mass media. Early rhetorical studies of television (Brown,
1969; Berg, 1972) gave way to studies of popular media and culture (Ohlgren & Berk,
1977; Brummett, 1991; Medhurst & Benson, 1991). Of late, rhetorical studies have also
taken disciplinary tacks, in public relations (Heath, 1980; Sproule, 1988; Toth & Heath,
1992; Elwood, 1995) and advertising (McKenna, 1999; Gill, 1999). That said, "one might
expect rhetoricians and journalists in the academy to be in frequent contact, but they are
not" (Daniel, 2002, p. 507). Daniel goes on to cite a number of alternate perspectives
from which journalism had been observed: literary, sociological, construction of meaning
in society, and the influence of journalism routines and practices on news content.
Rhetoric and journalism have not been so obvious a fit. A recent Web of Science
search based on the delimiters "rhetoric AND newspaper" yielded twelve journal articles
from 1945 to the present. Of these, five relied on textual elements in the foreign
newspaper coverage of some culturally-specific issue: South African newspapers on
racial discrimination (Durkheim & Dixon, 2001), Chinese versus Taiwanese newspapers
on certain foreign policies (Fang, 2001), Australian newspapers on immunization (Leask
& Chapman, 2002), Scottish newspapers on nationalism (Law, 2001), and British
newspapers on the Human Genome Project (Nerlich, Dingwall, & Clarke, 2002). Two
others undertook longitudinal studies of American newspaper coverage, identifying a
"rhetoric of catharsis" on the deaths of JFK, MLK, and RFK (Goldzwig & Sullivan,
1995), and a "rhetoric of fear" of narcotics problems in the 1920s and 1930s (Speaker,
2001). Two others focus on timely, specific issues, as the rhetoric of objectivity in the
newspaper coverage of a murder trial (Condit & Selzer, 1985), or dramatic rhetoric in the
Hill-Thomas Senate hearings (Lipari, 1994). Two others examined particularly unique
newspapers, the National Woman's Party newspaper (Lumsden, 1995) and the Pacific
Citizen, a Japanese-American newspaper (Ono & Sloop, 1995). These rhetorical studies
could serve cultural studies equally as well. The scope of this collection indicates the
flexibility of rhetorical analysis, whether it is applied to a particular case or rhetor, to a
case over time, or within another culture altogether. The emphasis on international cases
also raises the question of an inherent aversion of American communication to critical
From time to time, scholars take a critical look at the New York Times, though not
necessarily from a rhetorical perspective. Dinsmore (1969) traces the transformation of
The Times from an objective newspaper into one that slants and curves the news and take
tendentiously neutral editorial positions toward the Cold War [achieving] considerable
editorial effect by selecting and positioning the news" (pp. 14, 25). Caragee (1991)
provides a detailed examination of the symbolic world constructed by the Time," in its
coverage of the West German Green Party (p. 5). Most recently, Kohn (2003) seeks to
provide indisputable proof of the passing off of editorial opinion in the form of straight
news stories" from 2000-2003, supposing that thishs artifice the Times has used to
influence public opinion is particularly insidious because it derives it [sic.] power from
the paper's reputation for impartial reporting" (p. 298), though the discussion is severely
skewed to the political right. Each of these studies, in fact, is political.
This thesis offers a rhetorical understanding of the New York Times' coverage of
the Supreme Court ruling on desegregation. Ample impetus exists, given the conspicuous
absence of rhetorical studies of journalism, the significance of the Times as a unique
rhetor, and the lack of a practical notion of democracy for journalism and society. In the
next chapter, we will adopt a framework of criticism for the case at hand, to best answer
the research question:
How does The New York Times reconstitute its rhetorical resources in its May 18,
1954, coverage of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, KS,
Supreme Court ruling, and how is the "suasory potential" of the coverage impacted
by the implied choices?
Rhetorical studies are critical studies: They always look backwards. Whether
expounding a rhetorical theory or analyzing a particular rhetorical act, the scholar of
rhetoric asks of discourse, "What happened?" either immediately or in the distant past.
Fundamentally, rhetoric is a practical art, and rhetorical criticism, with its attention to
"theory in practice," will, at its best, teach us how to use rhetoric; but in the end, the
statements made are grounded in history.
Text and Context
Zarefsky (1998) alludes to a "continuum of scholarship" between text and context,
where greater emphasis is given to one or the other in rhetorical analyses (p. 21).
Gronbeck (1975) labels the poles of this continuum rhetorical criticism and rhetorical
history, the former term applied to "intrinsic" analyses which are based "essentially or
primarily" on the rhetorical text, the latter being given to "extrinsic" analysis of the
rhetorical context (p. 309). By examining the arguments on either end, we may, as before,
locate an ideal critical method at the resolution of many suggestions.
First and foremost in the modern period was Herbert Wichelns' (1925) oft-quoted
statement that strove to distinguish rhetorical criticism from literary criticism, "Rhetoric,"
is not concerned with permanence, nor yet with beauty. It is concerned with effect.
It regards a speech as a communication to a specific audience, and holds its
business to be the analysis and appreciation of the orator's method of imparting his
ideas to his hearers. (1972/1925, p. 54)
Included in the "scheme of a rhetorical study" are
the speaker's personality as a conditioning factor; the public character of the man-
not what he was, but what he was thought to be; a description of the speaker's
audience ... ; a description of the leading ideas with which he plied his hearers-
his topics, the motives to which he appealed, the nature of the proofs he offered ...
; the relation of the surviving texts to what was actually uttered; the speaker's mode
of arrangement; the speaker's mode of expression; the speaker's habit of
preparation and his manner of delivery; though the last two are perhaps less
significant; style-which corresponds to diction and sentence movement only
as one among various means that secure for the speaker ready access to the minds
of his auditors; the effect of the discourse on its immediate hearers-in the
testimony of witnesses [and] the record of events. (1972/1925, pp. 56-57)
The scheme stands as an ambitious though incomplete checklist of essentially
aesthetic rhetorical items. From the list, scholars produced variations on his theme, with
varying weights being given to specific items. And yet, despite Wichelns' efforts to
distinguish rhetorical from literary criticism, whatht emerged was another literaturization
of rhetoric in which persuasive effect replaced literary merit as the criterion for
enshrinement of key rhetorical artisans and textual artifacts in the pantheon of oratory"
(Sproule, 1978, p. 476).
Studies in this vein were dubbed "Neo-Aristotelian," in reference to their copious
application of his terminology in exercises in classification. The most notable survey of
those rhetorical items, Thonssen and Baird's Speech Criticism textbook from the late
1940s, took the aesthetic program to the extreme, basically expounding "Aristotle's
Rhetoric for the Everyman." Baskerville (1953), Hochmuth (1955), Brockriede (1966),
and Kennedy (1984) represent a sample of such output. Their classical intentions are well
One would hope that the ideal is not too fragile to stand the stresses of the stormy
present, that it need not be laid away for use in some more tranquil future. One
would think, rather, that when reason and civility are threatened, then is the time to
defend, not defer them. (Baskerville, 1971, p. 161)
In their aesthetic examination, these rhetorical studies cluster near the "text" end of
Zarefsky's continuum. Unfortunately, their reliance on standards of "effect" and
comparative ranking of only "significant and worthwhile" oratory (Cathcart, 1966, p. 7)
limited the agenda of rhetorical critics, thereby attracting critics of their own.
Critics of the aesthetic criticism mocked studies that flowed quite freely from the
Thonssen and Baird method as "cookie-cutter." Edwin Black's (1965) Rhetorical
Criticism, the rallying cry for said critics, would indict studies which practiced "the
classification of rhetorical discourses into, forensic, deliberative, epideictic; the
classification of "proofs" or "means of persuasion" into logical, pathetic, and ethical; the
assessment of discourse into the [Ciceronian] categories of invention, arrangement,
delivery, and style; and the evaluation of rhetorical discourses in terms of its effects on its
immediate audience" (1978/1965, p. 31). Wayne Booth (1983) demanded clarification,
not classification. Other invectives held that Aristotle's psychology was out-dated or that
too much attention was being paid to the "texts" themselves and not enough to the
contexts in which they were produced. After all, reminds Ernest Wrage, "the techniques
of the speakers are often highly individualized and perish with their bones; their ideas
live after them" (1947, p. 453).
Critics who would favor "extrinsic" over "intrinsic" aspects of rhetoric basically
operate as historians, as Turner (1998) attests. Lloyd Bitzer (1968) unveiled a whole new
vocabulary for the field, insisting that the rhetorical "situation" is the proper unit of
observation. Unfortunately, Bitzer, like Cathcart (1966), limits the scope of his theory, in
that for him, a rhetorical audience "must be distinguished from a body of mere hearers or
readers: [P]roperly speaking, a rhetorical audience consists only of those persons who are
capable of being influenced by discourse and of being mediators of change" (1968, p. 8).
The extreme view of rhetorical history finds that no preordained rhetorical theory
suffices, that "any explanatory rhetorical paradigm more likely only grows out of what is
found in primary source collections and other materials to which those collections lead"
(Carpenter, 1998, p. 237, italics in original), rather than the rhetorical text itself. It may
be argued that history has more to gain from the efforts of rhetorical historians than
In many cases, we find proponents of "rhetorical history," having found fault in
"Neo-Aristotelian" precepts, using Aristotle's terminology (see, for example, Duffy &
Carpenter, 1997)-ironic, considering their main critiques of the Rhetoric: with the unity
of the three books, Aristotle's intention (whether the work treats rhetorical invention
alone, or rhetorical criticism, too), and applicability of his precepts to modem times. A
recent persuasive argument stands, perhaps, to address all three critiques.
One manner of reconciling the divide between rhetorical critics may be found in
Jeffrey Walker's (2003) paper presented to the newly formed Alliance of Rhetoric
Societies. Therein, he takes a second look at Aristotle's declamation
"EoTco 6s prlTopilTr 6uvaC(pIS TrITP eKC(OTOV TOU 6scoprOCaI TO EV6sEXop6VOV
commonly translated, as we have noted,
"Rhetoric is the faculty of observing the available means of persuasion in any
Masterfully, Walker takes apart the line piecemeal (pp. 1-4), noting the proper
tenses, voices, and persons often lost in translation. The third-person imperative est6 de
rhetorikt, for example, implies a stipulative definition "Let rhetoric be," sometimes
glossed over as "Rhetoric may be defined as" or off-the-mark altogether as "Rhetoric is."
Here, according to Walker, Aristotle stipulates "a contentious definition, an opening
position, in order to give a particular philosophical account of rhetoric. 'Let's say that
rhetoric is a faculty of observing the available means of persuasion where will that get
us?'" (p. 3). Next, the phrase to endechomenonpithanon refers not at all to "the available
means of persuasion," as is usually held. Instead, it literally means "what is admissible,
allowable, or acceptable as persuasive." The verb either I\,di can be translated as observe,
consider, judge, speculate, make inferences about. "Why," asks Walker, "does Aristotle
not use the verb heuriskein, 'to discover or invent?'" Walker reasons, "Aristotle is
stipulatively defining rhetoric not so much as a faculty of invention-of scoping out the
available means of persuasion in any given case-but as a faculty of critical judgment-
of deciding what should earn one's assent" (p. 3). Moreover, he argues, "if we read
iithe't i\Li simply as 'to theorize,' which I think is admissable, we get rhetoric as a kind of
critical theory ... an effort to account for what makes the persuasive thing persuasive"
Walker's rereading, in fact, accommodates all critics and theories of rhetoric. It
takes us in the direction of giving historically grounded interpretive accounts of
particular suasory transactions or events, and likewise in the direction of giving a
general account of what makes anything persuasive, or, as Aristotle might say,
what makes enthymemes enthymematic. (2003, pp. 4)
If we accept his thesis, many of the aforementioned critiques of Aristotle's treatise fall
away. There is no discrepancy of unity between Aristotle's early stipulative statements
and subsequent treatment. His terminology now represents not only tools for rhetors but
his version of how to critically examine the same discourse. Unfortunately, on this count,
Walker's thesis provides nothing new. Plato himself makes clear in the Phaedrus:
"Surely a good subject for discussion would be, as we proposed just now, the way to
distinguish good writing and speaking from bad" (trans. 1956, 259C). In then presenting
his "ideal theory of rhetoric, Plato went far toward establishing critical standards for the
art" (Thonssen, Baird, & Baden, 1970, p. 160). Furthermore, scholars recognize that in
the Rhetoric, "Aristotle would thus carry to substantial fulfillment part of the promise of
the Platonic Phaedrus" (Grimaldi, 1972, p. 33).
It may be appropriate, then, to speak as Walker of "Aristotelian theory" as "a
certain kind of 'philosophical rhetoric,' that emerges at certain points, withers,
disappears, or gets occluded for long stretches of time, and then enjoys moments of
rebirth or renaissance, one of which we happen to be in now" (p. 4). Rather than
providing a template by which critics may classify content adnauseum, Aristotle's
Rhetoric demonstrates the shape a critical approach to rhetoric might take, in accordance
with Plato's ideal theory of rhetoric: multiple, overlapping dialectics of context from
which springs the rhetoric of a text.
It remains to determine the optimum way to take into account the rhetorical
particulars "in each case" by returning to some consensus point on Zarefsky's continuum,
whereby text and context are given equal consideration, "without giving to either a
controlling determinancy in the subsequent analysis" (Rosteck, 1998, pp. 472-473). A
synthesis of views realizes that "to understand how those symbols and systems of
symbols may have 'suasory potential and persuasive effect,' we need both rhetorical
criticism's message-centered focus and rhetorical history's contextual construction"
(Turner, 1998, pp. 2-3). Favoring one or the other gives rhetoric a deterministic, if not
positivistic, power that simply is not there in the real world.
A consensus statement of Wingspread conferees recognizes the field's need to
encompass all scholars of rhetoric: "We are arguing that any critic, regardless of the
subject of his inquiry, becomes a rhetorical critic when his work centers on suasory
potential or persuasive effects, their source, nature, operation, and consequences" (Sloan,
Gregg, Nilsen, Rein, Simons, Stelzner, & Zacharias, 1971, p. 221). Hochmuth (1955)
reminds us that "[a] concern with history or sociology, indispensable as preliminary
aspects of criticism, sometimes obscures the fact that history and criticism serve different
purposes" (p. 5).
Rhetorical "critics" and "historians" alike, then, utterly unable to separate text
from context, "are concerned above all with what messages do rather than with what they
are, and the central office of each is to explicate how rhetorical communication works"
(Lucas, p. 20). This dynamism resonates with our definition of rhetoric as "a theory to
explain how contemporary man interacts symbolically and purposively with other men."
Ultimately, we seek the how of rhetoric, assuming it to be found somewhere in the
interplay between text and context, in "the complex web of interactions among ideas,
messages, and men" (Becker, 1971, p. 22).
For this thesis, we assume White's (1990) model of an act of rhetoric as an act of
reconstitution. At least daily, The New York Times, responding to various developments
in context-the world-reconstitutes its own resources of language, producing in the end
a text-a newspaper. Between these definite endpoints in time lies the rhetorical act-the
mechanism of which we seek in this thesis. But, lest this be a blind search for disparate
clues, it would be helpful to have a substantial sense of an "act" of communication.
The Four Causes
Karl Wallace (1970) provides one apt model, based, ironically, on the Four Causes
of Aristotle, this time from the Physics:
Since we believe that we know a thing only when we can say why it is as it is-
which in fact means grasping its primary causes-plainly we must try to achieve
this with regard to the way things come into existence and pass away out of it, and
all other natural change, so that we may know what their principles are and may
refer to these principles in order to explain everything into which we inquire. (trans.
Aristotle's concern is with how objects or "things" come into being, and he proposes
what are commonly referred to as the "Four Causes:" the efficient cause (or "maker" of
the thing), the final cause (the "reason" for the thing), the material cause (all that which
comprises the thing), and the formal cause (the necessary "shape" of the thing).
Wallace's concern, and now ours, is the creation of a text, an object real and observable,
specifically for "how ideas are caused to materialize in texts" (Rosteck, p. 2). Thus, in
our desire to understand an act of rhetoric, or more specifically the "act of
reconstitution," we may speak of a rhetor, an end, the materials, and the form of a
rhetorical text, in our case the May 18, 1954, edition of The New York Times.
The functional aptness of Wallace's model is twofold: first, the original intention
of Aristotle is that these categories be exhaustive, though not necessarily exclusive
(Wallace, 1970, p. 40), and second, its recognition of concrete endpoints in the act of
production supplants some vague notion of a "communication process" (Wallace, 1970,
p. 41). These categories are not specific, as no respectable general theory of rhetoric can
be. In our own case, for example, we recognize as rhetors individual Times journalists as
well as an ultimate rhetor, The New York Times. We recognize multiple ends among
stories as well as the overall reality created in their collection. As we attend to rhetorical
"materials," we recognize at least two types: "those that arise from the special nature of
the particular occasion, and those generalizations, widely recognized and accepted, that
from his storehouse of conceptions the speaker brings to the occasion and applies to it"
(Wallace, 1970, p. 85). Formally, the "shape" of the newspaper demands technical
consideration of headlines as surely as scrutiny of story types and "frames" (Gitlin,
Our analysis, ultimately, relies on the assumption that in reconstituting its
resources of language, human choices were made, whether on May 17, 1954, or some
time after 1896 when Adolph S. Ochs began fine-tuning the fundamentals and personality
of The Times. These choices determined ultimately the character and uniqueness of each
rhetorical act-whether the entire edition of the newspaper, or a particular story, photo,
or graph therein-and it is our intention as scholars of rhetoric to understand and evaluate
those choices and their contribution to the overall "suasory potential," in accordance with
contemporary rhetorical theory.
The term "suasory potential" endorsed by the Wingspread Conference is intended
to distinguish rhetorical studies (like ours) that consider the rhetor's creative behavior,
from those that consider the "persuasive effect" of a rhetorical act after-the-fact. Let us
assume, for the present research purposes, that every purposive "text" (whether, in our
case, a news story, editorial, column, or entire newspaper edition) possesses a "suasory
potential" and that this suasory potential is in its fullest, most complete form upon release
of the newspaper. Upon its consumption, this potential may be transformed into a
"persuasive effect," a construct we will not measure in this study. The suasory potential is
impacted in some way by many rhetorical choices-that is, reconstituted from all
possible resources of language. Our goal is to understand as fully as possible the
reconstitutive act, that we may speculate on the impact of those choices on the "suasory
potential" of the Times' rhetoric on one important day, May 18, 1954.
Standards of Quality
"Understand," "reading," "evaluate"-such terms situate rhetoric squarely in the
domain of qualitative research and its associated activities analysis, explanation, and
interpretation. Rhetoric's idiographic attention to the particular, rather than the universal,
prefers a full understanding of one case to generalizing to some universe of cases.
Rhetoric, if we assume it to be powerful, alters contexts in some way for all time. The
Times of May 17, 1954, is not The Times of May 18, 1954, much less 1896. As T.S. Eliot
The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified
by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The
existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the
supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly
altered; and so the relations, proportions values of each work of art toward the
whole are readjusted. (1962/1917, p. 92)
As we scrutinize rhetorical texts, our aim is to interpret that alteration. Thus, we
must insist on standards of quality for our research, which no less important in qualitative
studies than in the quantitative sort. Gaskell and Bauer (2000), having examined Lincoln
and Guba's research on quality criteria for qualitative research, among other "takes,"
propose a taxonomy of six criteria: reflexivity, transparency, saturation, thick description,
surprise, and evaluation. Henceforth, these will serve to guide our present rhetorical
Reflexivity involves "the decentering of one's own position" for the sake of
"struggling with inconsistencies, both within oneself and among colleagues" (Gaskell &
Bauer, 2000, pp. 345, 346). This criterion implies the exposure of researcher biases, both
with regard to the immediate subject as well as to rhetoric and communication in general,
as Myrdal (1944) would attest: "There is no other device for excluding biases in social
sciences than to face the valuations and to introduce them as explicitly stated, specific,
and sufficiently concretized value premises" (p. 1043). He goes on to locate such
valuations and biases on race on (a) the Scale of "Friendliness" to the Negro, (b) the
Scale of "Friendliness" to the South, (c) the Scale of Radicalism-Conservatism, (d) the
Scale of Optimism-Pessimism, (e) the Scale of Isolation-Integration, and (f) the Scale of
Scientific Integrity (pp. 1036-1040).
That I spent my first twenty years in Alabama, attending an integrated high school
in two campuses, "separate but equal," held over from segregation times-Central High
School West for 9th and 10th grades, Central High East for 11th and 12th grades-certainly
"colored" my impressions of race, both in terms of the state's past and the present before
me. That in particular I lived in Tuscaloosa, a somewhat liberal "college town" in an
otherwise heavily rural state, was impressed early and often by the Presbyterian church,
and from 6th grade until graduation attended predominantly black (65%) schools only
intensifies the liberal attitude I apply to questions of race, or any other social division. I
sympathize with Jenkins' (1952) moniker "cultural sports," white Southerners "who are
ready not only to accept but to work for racial integration. They are to be found at all
class levels and at all ages but particularly among the younger generation" (p. 419).
A way of accounting for transparency is to make clear my position as a researcher.
In this particular case, I am most concerned with "how [the newspaper] would be
perceived by an audience of near contemporaries" in 1954 rather than, say, its appearance
in an Internet archive in 2004 (Kennedy, 1984, p. 4). Simply put, I approach the
newspaper as nearly as possible as a reader in 1954 than as a researcher in "the
reconstruction of previously held constructions" (Guba & Lincoln, 1994, p. 209).
Assuming that position obviously requires considerable historical research-before
"reading the paper"- to take account of the state of race in general and segregation in
particular in 1954. "Segregation was a fact about my universe," says Constitutional
scholar Walter Dellinger of the period. "[I]t seemed no more 'right' or 'wrong' than the
placement of the planets in the solar system. It simply was" (Thernstrom & Thernstrom,
1997, p. 97). Without a fully developed sense of context, both that of segregation and that
of The New York Times, the researcher relies too heavily on his own experience, where,
in my case, integregation "simply was." Thus, at their best, our interpretations will be
fully warranted historically and sustained through thick description, per Geertz (1973).
Saturation demands "maximizing the variety of unknown representations" of
history in the search for accuracy (Gaskell and Bauer, 2000, p. 347)-absolute truth here
acknowledged as unattainable. In reconstructing the relevant contexts, or fields of
linguistic resources, themes surface that seem crucial to our understanding. More
significantly, source themes emerge, in that certain texts are referenced over and over.
Gunnar Myrdal's (1944) An American Dilemma, for example, appears in discussions on
1940s and 1950s presidential policy, social research, and, most importantly, throughout
the records of the Brown Supreme Court case. The tome has been cited as "the most
penetrating and important book on our contemporary American civilization that has been
written" (Whitman, 1993, p. xxvii) and "[t]he most ambitious study of the place of the
Negro in American life" (Franklin, 1956, p. 556). Likewise, Berger's (1951) history of
The Times, though referenced by other histories, deserves perhaps more respect as the
"'official' book on The Times [which] had to be approved by various members of the
Ochs, Sulzberger, and Adler families, as well as by some senior executives" (Talese,
1978, p. 225).
Nonetheless, confirmation of any evidence comes most surely by data
triangulation, and this research draws on various formats-quantitative data, court
transcripts and records, codes of ethics, editorials, style manuals, memoirs, memos,
letters, and the like. Data triangulation, it will soon become apparent, is nowhere more
fundamental than in rhetoric. We are limited only by time: in one sense, that given more
time, more documentation could be discovered, and in another sense, that "[t]he critic
must endeavor to see events in terms of their yet unactualized future, free from all events
which were subsequent" (Hochmuth, 1955, p. 22). In the present case, we shall also set
lower boundaries on our contexts, by the key Roberts v. City of Boston Massachusetts
Supreme Court case on school segregation, and by Adolph Ochs' takeover of The New
York Times, the significance of these dates to be revealed in the following chapters.
Gaskell & Bauer (2000) call next for the factor of surprise, "with regard to theoretical or
common-sense expectations" (p. 347) as another check on biases. For rhetorical scholar
Robert Ivie, this standard means "we must experience the drama of discovering the
pattern along with the critic," that "[t]he essence of rhetoric exists, ironically, in the
dramatic presentation of its details rather than as a reduction to abstract principles" (1994,
p. 382). By approaching the newspaper as a reader, the researcher, as surely as his
audience, participate in the "sacred ceremony" of reading the news (Carey, 1975). That
orientation as a reader demands, first, a refusal to take up the text of the May 18, 1954,
edition without first immersing oneself as nearly as possible in the larger contexts. In
other words, we must first map the Times'"field of linguistic possibilities" in 1954.
Hypothetically, my initial reading should mirror the freshness and surprise of the reader
on May 18, 1954.
Along the way, of course, we will also discover quite a bit, both surprising and
not, about The New York Times and American society in the 1940s and 1950s, perhaps
the reason so-called "rhetorical historians" avoid texts. Only then may we embark on the
second phase of the research-evaluating The Times' rhetorical choices in reconstituting
its resources, or to borrow Walker's phrase, "what makes The New York Times The New
Finally, we must ensure some measure of validity, though all of the measures
above contribute to validity in some way. Additional checks in this case include the
review of colleagues (on the thesis committee) and the fundamental moral neutrality of
rhetoric itself. Most importantly, however, the presentation of textual material to support
the interpretations that are advanced will serve as the best and most direct marker of
validity. Presumably, the more contextual information (social, political, cultural,
economic, ethnic, and gender antecedents of the studied situation) on which to base
interpretations, the more valid an interpretation.
As we have mentioned, neither qualitative research, rhetoric, nor the specific
subject matter of this thesis, lend themselves to reliability or generalization. Our research
here is predicated on the interaction of an interpreter and a text. Certainly a newspaper
cannot be said to have "one reading," though that may be the intention of its publisher. At
any rate, situating a text in context abhors a reliable scheme or interpretation. For the
same reason, our desire to understand fully one rhetorical act diminishes our ability to
make general statements about, say, a class of newspapers or events. Nevertheless, "while
it is not possible to generalize to other texts for the sake of analysis, it is possible to make
normative statements based on the analysis at hand. Good rhetorical analyses frequently
do not hesitate to make normative proclamations" (Leach, 2000, p. 219). The shape of
those proclamations in this study remains to be seen, whether the analysis suggests
models, norms, or exemplars ... offers] perspective by incongruity on the ordinary cases
... yield[s] insights that may apply by analogy either to ordinary cases or to other
extraordinary cases ... [or simply] yield[s] a 'theory of the case:' a better understanding
of an unusual situation important in its own right" (Zarefsky, 1998, p. 25). At any rate,
the principal benefactor of those statements and this study is the field of journalism.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Elmer Davis divides his early history of The New-York Times, 1851-1921, into two
nameless parts, with 1896 the lone milestone en route. In the period leading up to that
year, the Times had fallen into disrepair, and was perched perilously close to disrepute.
From Chattanooga, Tennessee, a starry-eyed mid-level publisher, Adolph Ochs, made his
case for relief in a May 9, 1896, letter to Spencer Trask, then chairman of the New-York
Times Publishing Company:
I believe I can make [the Times] a successful and very profitable business
enterprise, and at the same time make it the model American newspaper; a model,
high standard daily journal, a model for fairness, cleanliness, independence and
enterprise, a welcome, daily visitor in the homes of intelligent and respectable
people. (Shepard, 1996, p. 42-43)
These noble aims romanticized the "one fixed purpose" he later confided in a letter
to his wife Effie while negotiating the purchase in New York: "to be freed from the
thralldom of my creditors" (Berger, 1970, p. 121). Even if economic liberation was his
primary goal, he met that early on; such can hardly account for his 40-year reign. On the
other hand, his platform of sound business practices, journalistic perfectability-in terms
of "fairness, cleanliness, independence, enterprise"-and an intelligent readership was
hardly novel, though, "in large degree a reaffirmation of the traditional principles of The
Timlles under its first publisher, Henry J. Raymond (Davis, p. 195). Another Times
historian, Meyer Berger, concurs Ochs and Raymond "thought alike" (p. 111).
Ochs paid homage to Raymond's legacy and reiterated these principles in the first
signed editorial published under his hand, the day after assuming command. The August
19, 1896, editorial makes a good starting point for our considerations, too. As we'll see,
what Davis refers to as "traditional" principles of The Times may be more simply put
"Ochsian" and may help to explain Davis's chronological partition. It reads:
To undertake the management of The New York Times, with its great history for
right-doing, and to attempt to keep bright the luster which Henry J. Raymond and
George Jones have given it is an extraordinary task. But if a sincere desire to
conduct a high-standard newspaper, clean, dignified and trustworthy, requires
honesty, watchfulness, earnestness, industry and practical knowledge applied with
common sense, I entertain the hope that I can succeed in maintaining the high
estimate that thoughtful, pure-minded people have ever had of The New York
It will be my earnest aim that The New York Times give the news, all the news, in
concise and attractive form, in language that is parliamentary in good society, and
give it as early, if not earlier, than it can be learned through any other reliable
medium; to give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of any
party, sect or interest involved; to make of the columns of The New York Times a
forum for the consideration of all questions of public importance, and to that end to
invite intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion.
There will be no radical changes in the personnel of the present efficient staff. Mr.
Charles R. Miller, who has so ably for many years presided over the editorial page,
will continue to be the editor; nor will there be a departure from the general tone
and character and policies pursued with relation to public questions that have
distinguished The New York Times as a non-partisan newspaper-unless it be, if
possible, to intensify its devotion to the cause of sound money and tariff reform,
opposition to wastefulness and peculation in administering public affairs and in its
advocacy of the lowest tax consistent with good government, and no more
government than is absolutely necessary to protect society, maintain individual and
vested rights and assure the free exercise of a sound conscience. (Davis, 1921, pp.
Appeals to tradition, an intelligent democratic readership, readability, and
timeliness, as well as promises of personnel and editorial continuity were much in the
spirit of Raymond's New-York Times. In fact, the conditions in which each first took
control of the paper were strikingly similar. Forty-five years before, Raymond had
appealed to the segment of readers repelled by "the trivialities of The Sun ... the
vulgarity of The Herald. .. [and] the insidious immorality of The Tribune" (Davis, 1921,
p. 196), indicting these at the time as "class journals, made up for particular classes of
readers" (Shepard, 1996, p. 18). Now in 1896, Ochs too appealed to high standards
against the odds of New York's yellow journals, and he advertised his Times by the
promise, "It does not soil the breakfast cloth" (Davis, pp. 195, 224). Most famously, he
guaranteed to cover the news free from opinion, "impartially, without fear or favor,
regardless of any party, sect or interest" (Talese, 1978, p. 163). Where Raymond
specified, "We shall be Conservative, in all cases where we think Conservatism essential
to the public good; and we shall be Radical in everything which may seem to us to
require radical treatment, and radical reform" (Shepard, pp. 18-19), Ochs endorsed a
generally conservative platform of sound money and limited government. Raymond set
the tone for a rational, impersonal editorial style, he lacking "the force of Greeley" and
"the stylistic appeal of Bryan" in an age of capitalized words and screaming headlines
(Sloan, 2002, p. 310). Ochs ensured editorial consistency by retaining editor Charles
Miller, who "on only few occasions got anywhere near the bare-knuckles attitude"
(Berger, 1970, p. 424). Even so, both Berger (p. 424) and Talese (p. 163) acknowledge
Ochs's consideration to do away entirely with the editorial page.
Ochs' first editorial stands as a concise general statement of principles, but can
hardly account for any one news story by any one journalist on any given day, especially
half a century later in the 1950s. Crucial to our understanding of the New York Times as a
rhetor is some refined sense of "Times policy," which informs if not guides the individual
journalists. "Ideally," says Warren Breed in his 1955 analysis of news department policy,
there would be no problem of either 'control' or 'policy' on the newspaper in a full
democracy. The only controls would be the nature of the event and the reporter's
effective ability to describe it. In practice, we find the publisher does set news
policy and, this policy is usually followed by members of his staff. (p. 326)
Policy, for Breed, includes "a more or less consistent orientation throughout the paper,"
as well as "motivations, reasons, alternatives, historical developments, and other
complicating material. Thus a twilight zone permitting a range of deviation appears"
(1955, p. 333). Policy is present but covert in every newspaper (p. 327); and its laundry
list of components makes it appropriate to rhetorical examination.
In Breed's analysis, "policy" is transferred in a number of ways-through other
stories a journalist sees in the paper, editorial actions, knowledge of the interests and
affiliations of executives, news conferences, house organs, observation of the executive
meeting various leaders, or hearing the executive voice an opinion (1955, pp. 328, 329).
Surely there are other mechanisms to be discovered (one of the goals of the present
research), but Breed's (1955) analysis is both timely and appropriate to our study in 1954
To observe the evolution of Times policy from Ochs to his successor, Arthur Hays
Sulzberger, we might itemize a comparison between the two, as opposed to following a
standard linear history. Then may we have a fuller understanding of The New York Times
as a single rhetor under two sets of hands. For, at mid-century, in the Times lobby, the
bust of Adolph Ochs, under golden words, "TO GIVE THE NEWS IMPARTIALLY,
WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOR, REGARDLESS OF ANY PARTY, SECT OR
INTEREST INVOLVED," appears alongside Sulzberger's telling philosophy, 'EVERY
DAY IS A FRESH BEGINNING-EVERY MORN IS THE WORLD MADE NEW'
(Berger, 1970, p. 565). In the process of comparison, incidentally, we'll witness each of
Breed's mechanisms at work.
Ochs, although thoroughly in control of the Times in his later years, so rarely
appeared in the newsroom that "each of his visits was an event, a time of quiet stirring
and excitement, a turning of heads in unison following his every step along the aisle"
(Talese, 1978, p. 159). On his death, April 8, 1935 (Berger, 1970, p. 404), tributes rolled
in from President Roosevelt among other leaders, the wires of the Associated Press were
silenced for two minutes around the world, offices in his hometown, Chattanooga,
Tennessee, closed for a day, and New York City's flags flew at half-mast (Talese, pp.
180-181). His will left controlling interest in the Times in trust to his four grandchildren,
and the trusteeship to their parents and his nephew, Julius Ochs Adler (Berger, 1970, p.
406). This tradition of "keeping it in the family," maintained today, would ensure his
family's interest in the Times for years to come, but also the legacy of the public
commodity he had created. In his will, he wrote,
I am satisfied that my executors and trustees, without any recommendations or
suggestions from me, will exercise their control to perpetuate The New York Times
as an institution charged with a high public duty, and that they will carry forward
and render completely effective my endeavor to maintain The New York Times as
an independent newspaper, entirely fearless, free of ulterior influence, and
unselfishly devoted to the public welfare. (Reston, 1991, p. 121)
Ochs's nephew, Major General Julius Ochs Adler, met Arthur Hays Sulzberger at
officer's training in 1915 in Plattsburgh, New York. Earlier, Sulzberger had met Ochs'
daughter Iphigene while both were students at Columbia. Now, through Adler, the two
commenced a life-long relationship. Ochs massaged this relationship with eyes to his
future successor, and he soon installed Sulzberger and Adler, his future business
manager, in on-the-job training that lasted for seventeen years hence (Berger, 1970, pp.
243-246; Shepard, 1996, p. 71).
Thus, Sulzberger, having "been close to Mr. Ochs ... seen him in his office and in
his home studied him, admired him," as well as operating as the Times' voice in
public talks, clearly understood the gravity of Ochs' mission on his assuming the position
of President and Publisher in 1935 (Berger, 1970, p. 406). In his first editorial, May 8,
1935, he stated explicitly, "I pledge myself, in the words of [Ochs's] salutatory of Aug.
19, 1896, 'to give the news impartially, without fear or favor"' (Berger, p. 406). On
numerous occasions, Sulzberger paid homage to the skill with which Ochs ran the Times.
On accepting an award at the University of Missouri in May 1930, he praised "Mr. Ochs
[as] the perfect newspaperman." Specifically, he said,
He possesses an evenness of spirit and a catholicity of interests. He is simple and
direct, able to strip the most difficult problem of its complexities and put his finger
on underlying and motivating facts. The news angle becomes apparent under his
touch. He devours The Times. There is little in it that escapes his attention, in its
news, in its editorial content, or in its physical make-up. (Berger, p. 347)
On the one hand, it might have been burdensome for Sulzberger to aspire, "We
have no wish except to hold high the banner of responsible journalism raised by Mr. Ochs
and held aloft by him until his death ten years ago" (Berger, 1970, p. 476). On the other
hand, it is reported, he privately told editors in 1935 that there would be some changes in
the paper (Berger, p. 405; Talese, 1978, p. 182), but that thereee will be no radical
change for at least one year. We don't want people saying we were waiting for Mr. Ochs
to die" (Berger, p. 407). Still, Times staffer James Reston recalls "solemn portraits of
deceased editors on the walls and some famous yellowing front pages embalmed under
glass" in Sulzberger's office (1991, p. 120). Hence, to quickly assume that Sulzberger
maintained Ochsian policy wholecloth in his control of the Times would be as precarious
and shortsighted as to claim arrogant differences. Only by close comparison along several
lines may one detect the subtlety of a newspaper changing hands in a changing century.
Davis attributes the Times' disrepair in the years leading up to 1896 to the
inexperience of the heirs of George Jones, the bad luck of a financial panic, and the lack
of a sound business organization (1921, p. 202). In a September 14, 1897, letter to
Spencer Trask, Ochs revealed his plan for the Times' economic recovery: "[T]he New
York-Times will only be a success when it is conducted strictly as a newspaper, free from
the control and the influence of anyone except those who are wholly occupied in its
publication," citing the newspaper business as one "that is frequently as embarrassed by
its friends as it is annoyed by its enemies" (Shepard, 1996, pp. 66-67). Ochs' plan called
foremost for a strict policy of limiting his investments of his own money and Times
corporate funds to Government bonds (Berger, 1970, p. 136), a policy adhered to
thereafter by Sulzberger (p. 475). When special economic moves were called for, though,
as in September 1898's rate decrease from three cents to one cent, he was fearless in the
face of criticism. A year after the price change, the average daily circulation had tripled,
from 25,726 to 76,260 (Davis, p. 238).
Economic independence extended to the advertising department as well. In the
lean early years, Ochs refused large sums of sorely needed capital in the form of
advertising: $33,600 from New York City Board of Aldermen, $150,000 from the New
York City government (Davis, 1921, pp. 192, 221). "The Times' advertising columns are
available to legitimate and trustworthy advertisers, subject to censorship for the
protection of the reader," he wrote to one Wall-Streeter in regard to a disputed ad. "[T]he
appearance or non-appearance of advertisements has no influence on the fair and honest
presentation of news or its interpretation" (Berger, 1970, p. 330), another philosophy
upheld by Sulzberger (p. 475). Under both publishers, the attention remained always on
the news, which never played second fiddle to advertising (Berger, p. 446). Both Ochs
and Sulzberger, when forced to reduce operating costs, discarded frivolities like the
"cheap backstair fiction" of the front-page feuilleton (Berger, p. 113; Davis, p. 208;
Talese, 1978, p. 162) and Times by-product publications like The Annalist, Current
History, and Mid-Week Pictorial, so as to protect the news side on which its reputation
had grown (Berger, p. 407).
Ochs installed a "federal" balance of power, separating the News Department, the
Business and Advertising departments, and the editorial page of The Times. The
separation of authority was united solely by the publisher, distinct from all three, but the
"one to point the direction" of the paper (Shepard, 1996, p. 63). Ochs clearly was pre-
ordained in this role, while editors Car Van Anda and Charles Miller rounded out the
cabinet, executing formidable power in their respective positions. As Ochs's reign waned,
he bred in-house Sulzberger, and other replacements Frederick Birchall, Louis Wiley,
Julius Adler, and Charles Finley, to ensure that his legacy remain (Berger, 1970, p. 311).
Adler, after Ochs' death, elaborated the same structure at a Times labor hearing:
Mr. Sulzberger is publisher, which means that he is in direct charge of all
operations. Actually, he gives his more direct attention to the news and editorial
departments. My title of manager gives me supervision of the business, circulation,
promotion, production, and mechanical departments.
We confer on all matters of paramount policy, on both sides of the business.
Naturally, if Mr. Sulzberger's views would differ from mine, his judgment would
prevail. (Berger, p. 347)
Sulzberger maintained an Ochsian omnipresence, preferring to blend in and rely on
the wisdom of his executives. Gay Talese recalls Sulzberger to be "by nature a modest
man, not a monument builder, [who] preferred making decisions quietly, taking into
account the counsel of his colleagues, and then remaining in the background with the
other shrine-keepers and paying homage to the departed patriarch" (1978, p. 10). At last,
his tendency to be "mildly aloof without seeming directorial" allowed the balance to give
way to the power, and there emerged four mildly competitive empires, "little dukedoms,
with each duke having his loyal followers and special territory to protect" (Talese, pp. 38-
39). These dukes-Edwin James, managing editor from 1932-1951, Charles Merz, the
editorial page's director "on the one hand and on the other hand" of the editorial page,
Arthur Krock, the Washington Bureau chief, and Lester Markel, the last word of the
popular Sunday edition-rounded out what in 1943 new hire James Reston likened to
Gaul (1991, p. 122). Talese surmises that their competition influenced "how a news story
was covered, who covered it, how much space it was allotted, where it appeared in the
paper" (p. 39). Shepard notes that through it all, Sulzberger sought in earnest to maintain
the independence of the News Department (p. 76). In 1953, when Turner Catledge
assumed the managing editorship, his "main problem was what to do about the dukes"
(Talese, p. 41). Catledge, from the Washington Bureau, preferred the "federal" structure,
and he shrewdly reinstated the Ochsian hard power at the top with a coordinated team
One in so firm command as Ochs might have ruled with an iron fist, but this was
not the case. He preferred as the best policy "no policy"-"a reliance of honesty, industry
and unhampered judgment" (Davis, 1921, p. 204). The staffers held over simply needed
coordination, enthusiasm, and focus on the welfare of the whole institution (Davis, pp.
205, 207). Sulzberger, on accepting a journalism award from the University of Missouri
in May 1930, observed, "I know no person on The Times today who is working for Mr.
Ochs. I know 3,500 who are working for The Times" (Berger, 1970, p. 347). An apt
manager, Ochs afforded an equal share of respect to each and every employee, whom he
always addressed as "Mister" (Berger, p. 114)-the origination of the Times'practice in
second references in its news columns, "except in the cases of criminals and athletes"
(Talese, 1978, p. 163).
Sulzberger treated his staff with equal dignity, he being "mortally afraid of abusing
personal power" according to James Reston (1991, p. 504). Said Sulzberger,
We believe that trained and skilled papermen and women, such as you have seen
here, who have no common denominator other than their Americanism, have the
ability to write and evaluate a news story that will be acceptable to most of our
readers as an accurate report of what transpired. (Quoted Berger, p. 476)
Times staffers, being such, presumably had demonstrated their capacity as journalists and
needed little coaching. Shepard later describes Sulzberger's insistence on empowerment
as "obsessive" (1996, p. 77).
To some extent, such empowerment indicated a personal liberalism on the part of
both publishers, but this trait extended beyond themselves or the 43rd Street office.
Within those confines, of course, the printer was peer to the editor. Moreover, both were
economically secure in the Times'family through even the gravest national crises. A
1932 wage reduction, the first and last for a reluctant Ochs, prompted him to write to
Effie near the end of his career, "This wage reduction has hurt me more deeply than
anything I can remember in my newspaper career" (Berger, 1970, p. 390). Such
benevolence did not discriminate, even among rivals. On the eve of the World's
destruction, Ochs prepared to raise $5 million (attached to a few technical suggestions) to
help its employees continue the newspaper, an idea Pulitzer pooh-poohed and Ochs
dropped (Berger, p. 372; Talese, 1978, p. 177). Every Christmas since 1912, the Times'
"Hundred Neediest Cases" fund-raising campaign for exceptionally deserving persons
among the city's poor extended this philosophy further. One anecdote offers a glimpse of
the motive behind such beneficence. Berger (pp. 271-272) writes about a reader who had
offered to endow the campaign with $1 million, the interest to be spent solely on cases
investigated by The Times, rather than by charitable organizations. Ochs refused the
endowment, "gently explaining that The Times was a newspaper and not a charitable
society," that the appeal was intended to educate the public on the plight of the city's
unfortunate (p. 272). The Ochsian drive "to educate" would manifest itself again in a
February 1933 press release, this time in sage advice rather than money. Of the financial
depression touching all, he reflected, "The tragic experience we are having will result in
educating the people that care, caution, and conservatism are as necessary in economics
as in physical health for the peace and comfort of our children, and this will be full
compensation for our tribulations" (Talese, p. 180).
Sulzberger was more distinctly personally (than politically) liberal, as we will see,
and in keeping with his times, bolder. For example, Sulzberger assigned an international
column in 1937 to Anne O'Hare McCormick, whereas Ochs would not have been so
liberal to the column or a woman author. She would soon become the first woman in
Times history on the editorial board, as well as the "most honored newspaperwoman in
the world" by 1951 (Berger, 1970, p. 424). Sulzberger served on the Governing board of
the American Red Cross, and later as its vice-president (Reston, 1991, p. 115), and was
also a Rockefeller Foundation trustee (Berger, p. 469).
In aiming to distinguish his newspaper from the yellow journals, Ochs in 1896,
like Raymond half a century earlier, appealed specifically to "thoughtful, pure-minded
people" (Davis, 1921, pp. 194-195). A year later in a letter to Spencer Trask, Ochs
celebrated "the reputation it is earning among the thoughtful people of New York ...
cultured and refined people" (Shepard, 1996, pp. 66-67). An October 10, 1898, editorial
announcing the two-cent rate decrease assuaged this same clientele: "The Times by no
means proposes to offend the taste or forfeit the confidence of the audience it now has,
already large, discriminating, and precious to it as lifelong friends," still refusing to
"affront their intelligence and good taste with freaks of typographic display or reckless
sensationalism" present in the yellow journals which most loudly criticized the rate
decrease (Davis, p. 233). The histories of the Times are replete with anecdotes of
encounters with what Berger called "an international Who's Who ... Diplomats,
scholars, financiers, merchants, scientists, industrialists and leaders in aviation and
modern exploration [who] had come to look upon it as the best daily medium of current
history" (1970, p. 240). Even before Ochs assumed command of the Times, President
Cleveland offered his letter of recommendation (Talese, 1978, p. 161). On one visit to the
White House, Ochs, noticing an open New York Times on the desk of President
McKinley, was assured by the president's secretary, "It's the first newspaper Mr.
McKinley reads each morning. It would have been there whether you had come or not"
(Berger, p. 137).
Sulzberger echoed Raymond's and Ochs' allegiance to this reading segment. In a
1945 speech, he reasoned,
Every newspaper must decide upon the clientele it wishes to cultivate. For our part,
we solicit that patronage of intelligent Americans, who desire information rather
than entertainment, who want the facts unadorned and who place first their country
and the freedoms which it guarantees. (Berger, 1970, p. 476)
Winston Churchill, dining with Times staffer James Reston in 1949, congratulated the
newspaper on its "preference for 'great themes' and suggested that [The Times] would
increase [its] influence by concentrating on thoughtful readers, and decreasing [its]
circulation by about a million" (1991, p. 179).
Caliber alone, Ochs realized more so than Churchill, would not sustain a
newspaper, and the aforementioned rate decrease was very much intended to increase the
scope of the Times' readership. Circulation figures steadily increased throughout his
term, resistant to any national economic catastrophes. "Undoubtedly," Davis reported in
1921, "The New York Times today approaches the character of a national newspaper more
nearly than any other in America" (p. 388), embracing a wide range of opinions on
political, social, and economic matters among people who "feel that they have to buy the
paper in order to get the news" (p. 260). The endorsement Ochs cherished most, perhaps,
came from rival Joseph Pulitzer, editor of The World, who confessed, "You may not
know that I have The Times sent to me abroad when The World is forbidden, and that
most of my news I really receive from your paper. You have a very, very able editorial
page' (Berger, 1970, p. 154).
Ochs' self-penned motto, "All the News That's Fit to Print," displayed
prominently to this day in the upper left-hand corner of page one, hardly seems to clarify
any Times standards, and many have speculated on breadth of the terms "all" and "fit."
Asked once what news is unfit to print, Ochs specified concisely, "What's untrue"
(Davis, 1921, p. 200). His insistence on accuracy (not to mention his appreciation of
news-gathering technology) was impressed by and on his long tenure on the Associated
Press Board of Directors and Executive Committee, making him fit for its directorship in
1903, which he turned down (Berger, 1970, p. 150).
Both major Times' histories credit the development and prestige of its news
department to Car Van Anda, Ochs' managing editor since 1904 (Davis, 1921, p. 274;
Berger, 1970, p. 161). "Propagating one side of the case," he testified in 1915 before a
Senate Committee, "is a privilege we do not permit our correspondents and reporters.
They may state the facts, but inferences are to be left to the editorial page, or to the
understanding of the reader" (Berger, p. 210). Under Van Anda, distortion would be
sacrificed to dullness (Talese, 1978, p. 6). Frederick Birchall, Van Anda's long time
assistant and successor, maintained the same devotion to accuracy, "the only noticeable
difference being improved literary style" (Berger, p. 269).
Sulzberger carried forward the Ochsian commitment to accuracy as the
fundamental bottom-line. In one speech, he explained,
Whichever way the cat should jump, we should record it, and we should not allow
our excitement about the direction which it takes, or plans to take, to interfere with
our primary mission. We believe that you will look after the cat if we inform you
promptly, fully and accurately about its movements .... We have no temptation to
be other than honest. (Berger, 1970, p. 476)
As did Ochs, he insisted quite simply, "We do not crusade in our news columns" (Berger,
p. 476). Like Birchall, however, he maintained that improved news-writing style need not
contradict this aim, and he pursued that program with vigor (Shepard, 1996, p. 76;
Berger, p. 407). Where Ochs had been possessed of unmatched business acumen,
Sulzberger was "a literary man whose papers are filled with poetry and humor and, when
needed, adroitly expressed outrage ... [whose] verse appeared from time to time on the
editorial page, whimsically signed 'A. Aitchess'" (Shepard, p. 73). Under his direction,
eventual managing editor Theodore Bernstein published an in-house bulletin, "Winners
& Sinners," listing examples of good and bad work that had appeared recently in the
Times, alongside his commentary and pontification on grammatical rules (Talese, 1978,
p. 109). The second edition of the Times' style and usage manual emerged in 1946 under
Sulzberger; the first, a much smaller edition, appeared in 1923 (Siegal & Connolly,
1999). Through such "house organs" and "editorial actions," as Warren Breed calls them,
news policy under Sulzberger would be rehearsed and absorbed (1955, p. 329).
In pursuit of the facts, Van Anda, encouraged by Ochs, fostered the capacity of
the Times coverage with all new technologies of news transmission, the first wireless
press message from Europe to the Times appearing October 18, 1907 (Berger, 1970, p.
165). Though no doubt a competitive move, the aim was less a strategic jump on the
latest scoop, and more one to strengthen the day-by-day efficiency on which the Times'
reputation as "St. Peter's daily ledger" (as Van Anda called it) was founded (Berger, p.
In that same spirit, Sulzberger, in keeping with the fast pace of wartime news and
later the advent of radio and television, invested heavily in news technology, with the
purchase the Times' own radio station, WQXR, in 1946 (Berger, 1970, p. 460) as well as
development of the Times'own wirephoto service (Talese, 1978, p. 53; Berger, p. 407).
Och's desire for news "as early, if not earlier, than it can be learned through any other
reliable medium" (Davis, 1921, pp. 194-195), including multiple daily editions, was
preserved through Sulzberger's term.
Depth of Coverage
On the one hand, publishing a "paper of record" meant coverage of financial
news, market reports, real-estate transactions, court proceedings, and other official,
perhaps mundane government activities (Talese, 1978, p. 162). Those inclined to such
news referred to the Times as the "Business Bible" (Berger, 1970, p. 109), and Raymond,
in his day, had emphasized many of the same beats (Shepard, 1996, p. 18). On the other
hand, such a charge placed no limit on the extent of coverage possible, and striking
examples of Times news depth abound.
Ochs, once asked about occasional full pages of crime coverage, normally
underemphasized, explained, "When The Times gives a great amount of space to such
stories it turns out authentic sociological documents" (Berger, 1970, p. 258). In this light
we may view various instances of news depth, as all the Times histories display these
proudly and frequently. Most notable, perhaps, was the 15 of 24 pages of news following
the April 1912 Titanic sinking. Davis reveals that other New York editors even wrote The
Times office expressing ungrudgingg admiration" of the edition (1921, pp. 194-195). Van
Anda related an intriguing incident on visiting Lord Northcliffe's Daily Mail in London,
when its editor opened a desk drawer at his right hand, exposing the April 19, 1912,
Times edition. He said, "We keep this as an example of the greatest accomplishment in
news reporting" (Berger, p. 201).
On the eve of World War I, as official statements emerged from the British,
German, French, Russian, Austrian, and Belgian governments, the Times published them
all in full, as well as arguments by the two sides, and daily analysis by military experts
(Davis, 1921, pp. 338-339). Thereafter, the first Pulitzer gold medal for "disinterested
and meritorious service" by a newspaper was awarded to The New York Times in June
1918 "for publishing in full so many official reports, documents, and speeches by
European statesmen relating to the progress and conduct of the war" (Davis, p. 365). By
this point, such copious presentation of the news had been almost solely a Times
institution, few other papers yielding the space or interest (Berger, 1970, pp. 346-347).
Not content to rest on its laurels, the Times treated the June 9, 1919, peace treaty to 62
columns, one-sixth of the entire 48-page issue, while no other newspaper ran it at all.
Alongside was coverage of the human-interest side of the peace conference, with
"portraits of the statesmen involved and descriptions of the diplomatic shadow-boxing"
(Berger, pp. 233-234).
The Times had cultivated an intelligent readership "willing to give the time to
reading long speeches and long documents, not necessarily because they had superfluous
time on their hands," but because they "would rather have every word available for their
own study than accept a summary made by somebody else" (Davis, 1921, p. 365).
Milestones in full-text treatment include Mussolini's 11,000-word speech before the
Chamber of Deputies on May 26, 1927, Pope Pius XI's 12,000-word encyclical on
education, and another 16,000-word papal encyclical on divorce, trial marriage, and birth
control on January 11, 1930 (Berger, 1970, p. 346).
National news often received multiple datelines to cover variance in national
response, such as the Friday, October 25, 1929, stock market crash, or the December 6,
1933, repeal of prohibition, each receiving datelines from Boston, Philadelphia,
Cincinnati, Cleveland, Baltimore, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, and Paris
(Berger, 1970, pp. 339, 400). Scientific breakthroughs received much the same treatment,
due in large part to Ochs' and Van Anda's personal fascination. Expeditions in all modes
of motion were featured prominently in the Times. In 1919, 10 pages were devoted to
man's first westward non-stop crossing of the Atlantic by air (Berger, p. 237), and on
Tuesday, June 14, 1927, sixteen full pages covered Lindbergh's fantastic ride (p. 304).
Perhaps the most amusing display of such news depth came January 25, 1925, after a
solar eclipse the day before. According to Meyer Berger, Van Anda had hired Dr. W.J.
Luyten of Harvard University Observatory to do one of the lead stories from a military
plane flying at 15,000 feet; got experts aboard the United States Navy dirigible Los
Angeles, which was to fly toward the sun; arranged for complete city coverage, and
alerted Times correspondents along the track of totality not only to report the event, but
also to watch the behavior of livestock-cows, birds, barnyard fowl, zoo inhabitants-to
study their reaction; and positioned R.C.A. engineers in Van Cortland Park to study the
effects of totality on both short and long wave radio waves (Berger, p. 267).
Having demonstrated a propensity for "authentic sociological documents," Ochs
cautioned in a 1932 letter to Sulzberger, "Our vocation should be more to inform than
interpret" (Shepard, 1996, p. 105). World War Two presented an entirely new complex of
events, and Sulzberger, citing "the effect that radio commentators were having" called for
"more news interpretation on our part because news was growing almost alarmingly
complex," though, he assured, "[t]he changes had to be made without affecting the basic
Ochs formula" (Berger, 1970, p. 423). Thus, in the spirit of Ochs, the Times printed all
the war communiques, both Allied and Axis (Berger, p. 449), the full text of a 1941
MacArthur speech, 80,000 words of a 346-page Sunday edition (p. 543), 32 columns in
1944 of the European Plan (p. 500), 10 pages on the atom bomb Tuesday, August 7,
1945, and on August 30, the entire 130,000-word Pearl Harbor Investigation Report-the
longest text in Times' history, encompassing the equivalent 400 book pages (p. 540). The
December 8, 1941, Pearl Harbor coverage, like that of the solar eclipse sixteen years
earlier, was generated quite carefully with some sixty assignments, including a sketch on
General MacArthur, histories of the bombed ships, pieces on Manila and Pearl Harbor, a
story on Japanese finance, a shipping round-up, coverage of the Japanese consulate, a
story on canceled Army leaves and recruiting, the Navy Yard in Brooklyn, a look at
Japanese newspapers, a radio war-news round-up, as well as stories on police emergency
precautions, Mayor LaGuardia's broadcast to the city, bombardment protection, public
drills, airport activities, Army and Navy mobilization, President Roosevelt's plans, an
interview with Secretary of State Cordell Hull, a full summary of the Government's
attempts to work out a non-agression pact with Japan, and the Japanese answer (Davis,
In the 1950s, radio and television dominated spot news, but Turner Catledge,
Edwin James' successor as managing editor in 1951 (Talese, 1978, p. 40), felt confident
that newspapers could bring readers more details and could explain the significance of
these details more effectively than could television, all the while adhering to Ochsian
accuracy. This development in "news analysis," as such articles would later be marked,
was part of Catledge's motivation behind a strong, centralized copy desk in New York
(Talese, p. 208). Coincidentally, he initiated the four o'clock conference in his office
each afternoon (Talese, p. 45), an act of centralization intended, as Breed (1955, p. 329)
suggests, to check news treatment. Catledge vested the same policy in his editors, as
assistant managing editor Robert Garst revealed:
A race riot, a prison outbreak, a bad slum condition-even a murder-has a social
background, deeply rooted perhaps in the customs, traditions, and economic
condition of a region or community, but it is there and discoverable. It's the
newspaper's job, it seems to us, to discover it. (Shepard, 1996, p. 7)
Traditionally, the Times under Raymond had endorsed the Republican candidate
for president, until the three elections before Ochs came aboard in 1896, when each time
it backed Democrat Grover Cleveland. In 1900, Ochs endorsed McKinley, the first
Republican in sixteen years, on his platform of sound money, but supported the
Democratic platform thereafter, tending to the southern conservative brand more than
old-fashioned Jeffersonian democracy (Shepard, 1996, p. 108). Davis adds the
qualification "that [he] was somewhat more independent than Democratic," always
deferring the record of any particular party to the national welfare (1921, p. 248). In a
1931 letter to a reader canceling his subscription over a political position the Times had
taken, Ochs explained, "The New York Times is not a crusading newspaper .... [It]
attempts to aid and support those who are charged with the responsibility of
government," regardless of party affiliation (Shepard, p. 69).
On economic issues, The Times under Ochs was "frankly and pretty consistently
conservative ... on the whole always to be found on the Right," according to Davis in
1921 (p. 261), earning it "the distinction of being more thoroughly hated by Communists,
Socialists and radicals, to say nothing of pro-Germans and Irish extremists, than any
other newspaper in the United States" (p. 260). Only in his final years, angered by the
economic conditions of depression, did he discard such economic conservatism for
Roosevelt's liberal policy in 1932 (Talese, 1978, p. 176). Socially, however, Ochs
remained wary of sweeping changes in either legislative or judicial policies, preferring
always "to educate" and raise civic consciousness (Davis, p. 268). He reminded
Sulzberger, in a 1932 letter, "It has been the policy of The Times to be conservative and
cautious and not involve itself in all public clamor for a change" (Shepard, p. 105).
As we previously noted, Ochs was wary of opinions, especially in news columns,
and nearly considered a Times free of an editorial page. Davis explained Ochs's general
policy this way:
Since human nature is fallible, it has been found advisable to print all the news and
leave to the editorial page the assessment of its relative worth, rather than exercise
discrimination at the news desk and suppress everything that fails to accord with
the news editor's judgment of the probabilities. (1921, p. 332)
As one might expect, Ochs sat in at every editorial council (Berger, 1970, p. 118), where
he fostered a thorough and vigorous Socratic exchange of ideas. Garet Garrett, on the
council in 1916, revealed:
None of us values his mental processes highly, and yet, he has a way of seeing
always the other side that stimulates discussion, statement and restatement, and
leaves a better product altogether than is approached in his absence. Mr. Miller,
when he presides, sees only one side of a thing, and smothers any effort to discuss
the other. His mind is closed. It is a better mind than Mr. Ochs's, and still is, within
the limits of its movement. But Mr. Ochs, for his lack of reasoned conviction, is all
the more seeing. He can see right and wrong on both sides. He has a tolerance for
human nature in the opponent. (Talese, 1978. p. 170)
In 1930, Sulzberger concurred, "He [Ochs] refuses to go with the herd and frequently in
editorial council takes what he himself would later admit was an extreme position, solely
for the purpose of bringing out in argument all the points that could be made on both
sides" (Berger, p. 347). That which emerged successfully from the dialectical exchange
made its way to print, unencumbered. Beyond that, as Ochs explained in 1923 to a
Washington correspondent of the Buffalo Evening News, "There is an inviolable rule that
no editorial writer shall write an article expressing an opinion that he does not honestly
and conscientiously entertain" (Shepard, 1996, p. 105). Berger remembers "how, after
Ochs had set forth his impressions of what should be done, he would end by saying: 'Do
as you think best; I was only thinking out loud'" (p. 368). In this same spirit, he gave
over of much of the editorial page space to letters from readers, of any and all opinions
(Davis, 1921, p. 217; Talese, p. 163).
To ensure consistency in this regard, both Adler and Sulzberger sat in news and
editorial conferences-"and still do" according to Berger's 1951 account (p. 247). On the
other hand, the war and new technology presented ample opportunities to respond to
rapidly changing world affairs in new ways. In editorials, "[t]he ivory tower atmosphere
of the Ochs era" gave way to "more bite" (Berger, p. 525). Under Sulzberger, the Times
was "anxious to see wrongs corrected, and we attempt to make our position very clear in
such matters on our editorial page" (Berger, p. 476), with little fear of such positions
invading the news columns.
Sulzberger, too, considered himself a Democrat, but demonstrated even more
willingness to cross party lines in pursuit of good policy. He backed Republicans
Wendell Wilkie in 1940 against the judgment of most members of his editorial board,
Thomas Dewey in 1948, and Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956 in opposition to his wife, who
favored Stevenson (Reston, 1991, p. 124). Such moves solidified the Times' political
independence, it becoming gradually less and less Democratic. Sulzberger even refused
to have an editorial page cartoon "on the grounds that a cartoon could never say 'on the
other hand'" (Reston, p. 125). Impending war dominated national political decisions, and
the Times' devotion to the national welfare determined its political endorsements of he
better equipped to guide the nation to ultimate war victory (Berger, 1970, p. 493). Among
the causes the Times championed under Sulzberger's watch were freedom of speech and
the press, fair trial and equality before the law, civil rights, anti-discrimination laws, anti-
lynching and anti-poll-tax legislation, and other Negro rights, ratification of the Child
Labor Amendment, the American Indian, fairness to aliens, and a liberal immigration
policy (Berger, p. 534). On other social issues, his Times helped lead the fight for social
security, favored racial equality, and denounced McCarthy (Reston, p. 125).
Early in his tenure, Sulzberger maintained the Ochsian watchful eye on the paper's
editorial views, but he would disclose later:
When Finley retired and Merz became the editor, things started to change. Up to
that time I had read every editorial in proof before it appeared in the paper. After I
worked with Charlie and realized how much he and I thought alike, I knew that was
no longer necessary. I also knew that if he wished to take a different position from
what had already been established, Charlie would tell me about it and consult with
me. The result was that I left things very largely to him but as to who was
responsible, the answer is that I was and I alone. (Shepard, 1996, pp. 107-108)
Charles Merz, a protege of Walter Lippmann at the World, took over the Times'
editorial page in 1938 (Talese, 1978, p. 185) and developed a close relationship with his
new publisher. Staffers Berger (1970, p. 257) and Talese (p. 185) attest to the great deal
of time the Merz and Sulzberger spent together outside the office, the source of their
mutual understanding and loose editorial relationship. Under Merz's watch, as many as
eighty staff members of the Times by 1951 were encouraged to write editorials on
subjects of which they had special knowledge as business, labor, art, theatre, or music
(Berger, p. 535), in keeping with the Times spirit of empowerment.
The Washington Bureau
Davis, in his 1921 Times history, remarked, "Perhaps there should be special
mention of the Washington correspondence of The Times, which is probably not only
more voluminous, but more impartial, than that of any other paper" (p. 379). More
importantly, most of the Brown articles originated in the capitol city. As we have already
seen, the Washington bureau in the Sulzberger years approached the status of a private
principality, with Arthur Krock its duke (Talese, 1978, p. 19). At the same time, the
bureau may be considered a microcosm of the larger Times institution: Many of the same
policy mechanisms (per Breed, 1955) we have observed thus far may be seen operating in
the Washington Bureau in a finer form. The bureau, as the Times itself, spawned its own
successor to Krock, James Reston in 1953, as well as the Times' new managing editor,
Turner Catledge in 1951. In fact, in the manner we observed the transfer and evolution of
Times' policy from Ochs to Sulzberger, we may observe an analogous relationship
between Krock and Reston, broadening and enhancing our understanding of Times
policy-that is, what makes The New York Times The New York Times.
Krock came into the Times' family in 1927, and there can be no doubt his rise to
prominence in Washington did not escape the attention of Ochs. In a 1938 essay, Krock
dubbed Ochs "a genius of the first rank" (Krock, p. 27). Talese claims that Krock had
more in common with Ochs than Sulzberger: "Krock seemed part of the Ochs era. Krock
and Ochs were regally remote, politically conservative; they were self-made men,
confident and vain and hardened by experiences that Sulzberger never had" (Talese,
1978, p. 187). Krock's column, taken up in April 1933, had been highly contested by
Ochs, still fearful of the opinions the paper already carried (Reston, 1991, p. 202; Berger,
1970, p. 424). By 1938, he was awarded his second Pulitzer Prize, which he attributed to
"familiarity with the great national game of politics .. laboriously acquired over the
long years" (Krock, p. 6). Certainly, Sulzberger had little need to tinker with Krock's
success in Washington. As Talese put it, "As much as any Timesman was irreplaceable
anywhere, Krock was irreplaceable in Washington" (p. 188).
The great national game of politics, he explained the year he won his second
Pulitzer, was based foremost on "individuals and their human nature. They were still
there when I went back to Washington in 1932. There they remain. Mr. Hoover does not
like Mr. Roosevelt and never did" (Krock, 1938, p. 7). In 1938, and later in 1950, Krock
secured exclusive interviews with Roosevelt and Truman, the first given by Truman to
any journalist-in both cases, he had theretofore been critical of administration policies
(Talese, 1978, p. 126; Berger, 1970, p. 54). According to James Reston, Roosevelt
"denounced him regularly as 'that Tory Krock-pot,'" while Secretary of State Dean Rusk
recalled that soon after taking office, "he had a message from Krock saying that 'if I
wished to call on them, he would be glad to receive me'" (Reston, 1991, p. 202). Such
proximity and presence placed Krock alongside other luminaries of Washington
journalism, including Walter Lippmann, David Lawrence of U.S. News and World
Report, and Frank Kent of the Baltimore Sun (Reston, p. 202). More importantly, it
reflected on his staff, observing their executive as he meets various leaders, as Breed (p.
329) puts it.
In fact, Krock urged the same close political interaction on his Washington staff. In
1938, he admonished,
[I]t is, therefore, only a small part of the newspaperman's duty to relate what
happens on the floor and in meetings of the delegations and of the committees. He
knows that in hotel rooms and over telephone wires the great decisions are made.
He knows who are the masters of the milling, uninformed delegates, and who
represent these masters if they are not on the ground. By keeping account of whom
they see, and learning from them or their agents what they are doing, he follows the
drift of the convention to its close. All, all is the doing of man and man. (Krock,
1938, p. 11)
By 1951, that staff numbered seventeen all of whom, according to Berger, "maintain
close contact with the great and the near great who are major news sources. A few mingle
socially with Government officials, and some of the best stories develop over after-dinner
coffee and cigars" (Berger, 1970, pp. 544-545). James Reston, one such staffer, reports
the entire staff to have been enamored of Krock, calling him "A.K., but not in his
presence" (Reston, 1991, p. 130).
In 1942, Reston had worked under Times historian Elmer Davis, then head of the
new Office of War Information, at the U.S. Embassy in London (Reston, 1991, p. 106). A
year later, he was employed by Sulzberger as a personal assistant, for help with speeches
and other "postwar problems of the Times," passing on to Sulzberger observations and
suggestions in an effort to "prepare for the future" (Reston, pp. 122, 114). As Breed
might predict, Reston confessed, "I learned many things in Arthur Hays Sulzberger's
office .... [H]e placed before me by his example an ideal of human decency and
responsibility. He agreed that it was the duty of the press to expose corruption, but he was
more interested in education than in investigation" (p. 124). Such lessons reflect our
analysis of Sulzberger thus far, and may be comfortably considered to be significant to
Reston, as well. Talese, in fact, claims that eventually, "Reston's whole stance seemed so
intertwined with The Times, his idealism and character so in keeping with the concepts
endorsed by the Sulzbergers, that to question James Reston would be to question The
Times itself" (1978, p. 22). Talese refers to what we have heretofore referred to as Times
In 1944, Reston assumed a reporting position in Krock's Washington bureau,
soon becoming "the young star of Krock's staff" and winning his own Pulitzer (Talese,
1978, p. 18). If there was to be another "star," it would be future managing editor whom
Turner Catledge, whom Talese dubs "the most ambitious member of [Krock's] team" (p.
41). Krock and Catledge's working relationship would henceforth be characterized as "in
their mannered ways, rivals" (Talese, p. 42).
When in 1953 he was offered the editorship of the Washington Post's editorial
page, it became necessary that Krock relinquish his throne to Reston (Talese, 1978, p.
18). Krock was incidentally nearing retirement, and, in the Ochsian act of strategic
planning, Krock found in Reston not only a worthy successor, but also a safekeeper of the
Bureau's independence, based on his proximity and mutual understanding with the
publisher. Further, Krock would maintain an Ochsian presence in the Bureau, as well as
his "Washington" column (Talese, p. 19). On transferring power, Krock wrote to Reston,
"I have known many of the reporters of my time who were called great. I have worked
against some of them, and unworthily directed the services of others, but in my opinion,
none has been your superior," inspiring Reston to "work harder than ever before to justify
this unexpected move" (Reston, 1991, p. 199).
The Washington news operation under Krock ran much the way it did in New York
in the 1930s and 1940s, efficient but generally unsupervised. Reston recalls only two
meetings of the whole staff under Krock, "the day he took the job and the day he gave it
up" (1991, p. 202). Instead, reporters were empowered with a basic set of principles. For
Krock (1938, p. 15), this meant:
Our obligations are merely these, in deciding whether to go into print with
information: Is it true? Has it been legitimately acquired? Is it fit to print-public
property or a private matter? These satisfactorily settled, the facts are ready for
their bath of printer's ink.
As Ochs, Krock held "the reporter must operate at his peak, factually, without color
save that of description, free of comment and bias" (Krock, p. 27). James Reston, fresh
from the publisher's office in 1944, thus, "soon ran in to trouble" (Reston, 1991, p. 129).
At that point, Reston felt he had the assurance of Sulzberger, that in Washington he
would be free to write interpretive articles, unbeknownst to Krock. At best, Krock
conceded interpretation could be done in the weekday papers but only with permission
(Reston, p. 130). This fundamental debate continued, and Reston confessed it never to
have been resolved, though the two were amicable in most other respects (Reston, p.
135). Perhaps more significantly, the issue illustrated for Reston what, based on our
analysis so far, may seem inevitable: "the depth of the conflict between the old Times
tradition and the new interpretive journalism imposed on the newspapers after radio and
television became the first purveyors of the news" (Reston, 1991, pp. 131-132). His
colleague Turner Catledge, it may be remembered, carried the Ochsian mantra of
objectivity to New York.
Another point of difference between Krock and Reston emerged in the day-to-day
operation of the Washington Bureau. Under Reston, the bureau "had a staff meeting
almost every working day on the theory that the sum of our brains and legs was necessary
to outthink and outnumber the Herald Tribune" (Reston, p. 202). At such meetings, says
[W]e specialized in amateur speculation. By imagining that we were running the
State Department, we would guess that the secretary of state would have to react to
the latest outrage of the Soviet government, so we would call up officials at State
on the assumption that they had already reacted. We were often wrong, but it was
remarkable how many times our guesses were right and how often we got ahead of
the competition by this device. (p. 205)
This dialectical exchange, in the method of Ochs, involved all the specialists
Reston had appointed to cover certain areas of government. On Mondays, for example, as
the Supreme Court handed down decisions, staffer Tony Lewis would summarize them
all, rather than focus on a few, a treatment applauded even by Justice Felix Frankfurter,
who once called Reston at home to commend the effort: "I can't believe what that young
man achieved," he said. "There aren't two justices of the Court who have such a grasp on
these cases" (Reston, 1991, p. 204). It was Reston's personal relationship with
Frankfurter, in fact, that partly inspired the dialectical dynamics of the office meetings.
"Every writer on public affairs, [Frankfurter] insisted, should have somebody around the
office who knew his weaknesses and could challenge his judgments before these were
inflicted on a long-suffering public," Reston recalls (p. 173). Thereafter, he employed
"the clerk system" of regularly soliciting the input of his colleagues in the Washington
Reston also practiced the Ochsian intra-office congeniality, knowing each staffer
personally, as well as his sense of empowerment in the guarantee of space and bylines
(Talese, 1978, p. 22). As with Ochs, only a "few general assumptions" were in place in
Washington, namely a competitive timeliness, a preference for understatement to
overstatement, and an avoidance of certain terms like "unprecedented" and "universally"
(Reston, pp. 205-206). He also recalls Carroll, his Washington editor, "especially hat[ing]
breathless, or as he called them, 'Christ how the wind blew' stories" (p. 205).
Both Krock and Reston wrote columns in the 1950s, many appearing together in
the same edition. For Krock, columns differed from news, in that the latter must be
factual, without color, and bias-free. "But elsewhere in the paper," he maintained, "must
be the stuff of his eyes, his ears and his legs. Otherwise the products are mere essays or
rewritings of history and encyclopedia-interesting and well done, maybe, but not first
rate journalism" (1938, p. 27). In his column, Krock invoked his conservative Southern
Democrat philosophy-defending states' rights against the New Deal and other liberal
measures (Talese, 1978, pp. 186-187)-as well as his devotion to the personalities and
"all the roguery of politics" (Reston, 1991, p. 133). Reston characterizes Krock's style as
"dignified and convoluted," imitating "the stylish but complicated prose of the
nineteenth-century British historians and essayists, which explained his dignified, subtle,
and often mystifying and interminable sentences" (p. 133). Talese detects "an
undercoating of acid between the lines" (p. 186).
Reston took up his first column, "A New Yorker at Large," in 1934 at the
Associated Press (1991, p. 50). These "thunderbolts," as he described them (Reston, p.
45), afforded their writer an opportunity to "blow off two or three times a week about
how to save the human race," but at their best were intended to be a useful public service,
the columnist a "self-appointed legman" in Washington writing a letter to the absent
friend (Reston, p. 368). Therein, he pontificated the Calvinist ideals of his Scottish
parents as well as the ideals of America, "leading no doubt," in his own words, "to many
hard and insensitive judgments" (Reston, p. xi). President Eisenhower once asked, 'Who
the hell does Reston think he is, telling me how to run the country?'" (Talese, 1978, p. 9).
The American ideals Reston subscribed to were Hamiltonian, in that he echoed
Lippmann's distrust of the American electoral process and the judgment of the people,
preferring a strong executive government advised by the intellectual elites, a la Ochs. In
his memoir, he cites Lippmann, saying "The public can produce only muddle when it
meddles," and that a modem nation could not be built by "Georgia crackers, poverty-
stricken, Negroes, the homeless and helpless of the great cities. They make a governing
class essential" (Reston, 1991, pp. 140, 142). Like Ochs, he felt confident that public
discourse would improve, that the increasingly rapid distribution of news would produce,
in turn, "a more enlightened electorate and a stronger sense of citizenship," that "the only
way to preserve democracy is to raise hell about its shortcomings" (Reston, pp. 268, 271).
As if to distinguish himself from Krock, he remarked, "the more I saw of the federal
system in action the more I admired it, but the more I saw of what was called 'the great
game of politics,' the less I liked it" (Reston, p. 260). Through it all, Talese found his
column to be "never cynical and always readable. ... He communicated hope" (1978, p.
Together, these personalities represent The New York Times. They represent the
crux, though certainly not all, of those who have made or sustain Times policy. (Some of
these would become individual rhetors in the May 18, 1954, Brown coverage.) In the
context of any newspaper, one might assume the publisher to have the greatest influence
on the choices made, rhetorical or otherwise, and we have seen two strong publishers,
one the Times' very soul. On the other hand, we have seen the idiosyncrasies of distinct
personalities shape the Times' intra-office dynamics and news and editorial treatment, in
keeping with the Times' spirit of empowerment. At times, the specter of Ochs hovers
overhead; at others, the challenges of war. At any rate, what we have here observed may
be considered that which the most informed and loyal Times' reader may have come to
expect from the journal by May 18, 1954. Still, it represents only a portion of the context
an informed critic of the same edition would need to consider. In fact, it is "the case" at
hand-the Brown decision, and the significant events leading up to that moment-we
Marie Hochmuth, in 1955, cautioned, "The critic must endeavor to see events in
terms of their yet unactualized future, free from all events which were subsequent" (p.
22). The corollary to this removes the lower bound on context, giving rise to the question,
"How far might one look back?" Segregation as an institution was most conspicuous in
the first half of the twentieth century, but evidence suggests its existence well before the
American Civil War. Though the critic needs a full and rounded understanding of the
immediate context on which he would speculate, namely public school segregation in
1954, it becomes requisite that he make every effort to grasp underlying motivations and
conditions from whence that context sprung, which as one might imagine, requires
looking going a bit farther back. Without trying to weigh in on the entirely separate field
of elucidating causes to the Civil War, our study nonetheless begins there.
The Nineteenth Century
The Southern economy prior to the Civil War was wholly agricultural and
depended in large measure on "that region's most valuable commodity-human chattel"
(Cottrol, Diamond, & Ware, 2003, p. 18). To some extent, the institution was recognized
by the federal government, as in 1850, Congress enacted a fugitive slave law, whereby
runaway slaves, and in some cases misidentified freemen, may be returned to their slave
state of origin (Cottrol et al., p. 22). In the North, where commerce and manufacturing
thrived "and the doctrines of Romanticism liberalized men's social viewpoints" (Knox,
1947, p. 271), the Negro could not be transacted, separated from his family, or legally
made to work without compensation, and was relatively free to organize, yet still
"understood his 'place'" through legal and extra-legal codes resembling segregation
(Woodward, 1974, p. 28). According to Woodward, the farther west the Negro went in
the free states the harsher he found such proscription, Indiana, Illinois, and Oregon
encoding constitutional provisions restricting Negro admission at their borders (p. 28).
The controversial 1857 Dred Scott v. Sanford decision which denied citizenship to the
appellant, firmed up the national feeling that "[t]he Negro has no rights which the white
man is bound to respect" (Cottrol et al., p. 22). In 1858, soon-to-be president Abraham
Lincoln expressed the sentiment this way:
A universal feeling, whether well or ill-founded, can not be safely disregarded. We
can not, then, make them equals ... I will say then that I am not, nor ever have
been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the
white and black races [applause]-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of
making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to
intermarry with white people, and I will say in addition to this that there is a
physical difference between the black and white races which I believe will for ever
forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And
inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the
position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of
having the superior position assigned to the white race. (Woodward, p. 21)
A Freedom of Sorts
The 1863 Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves, but only those in seceded
states; It would be another two years before the Thirteenth Amendment freed slaves
nationwide (Cottrol et al., p. 23). After emancipation, many Negroes migrated to cities
North and South in repugnance of their former existence, but most remained in Southern
rural areas, war-torn and wounded, according to historian John Hope Franklin (1956, p.
308). Franklin surmises,
The abandoned lands, the want of food and clothing, the thousands of displaced
persons, and the absence of an organized civil authority to cope with the emergency
merely suggest the nature of the suffering. The extent of it among both Negroes and
whites can scarcely be imagined. (p. 302)
Freedom alone, without economic backing, left most Negroes no alternative but "to
submit to their old masters" (Franklin, 1956, p. 319). At the close of the war, many
freedmen gathered in conventions, in pursuit of change and betterment of their conditions
(p. 302). What effect these had on former slaveholders is unknown, but according to
Franklin, their greatest concern remained controlling the Negro, fearing uprising and
vengeance (p. 299). Various "Black Codes" were thus instituted, restricting public
meetings, imposing curfews, and prohibiting black ownership of firearms, and the system
of slavery would be replaced by one of labor contracts enforced by prison for vagrancy
(Cottrol et al., 2003, p. 23). Cottrol argues that these Codes played a major role in the
spurring Republican passage of the Fourteenth Amendment (p. 23).
The 14th Amendment, ratified in July 1868, guaranteed all citizens "equal protection of
the laws," free from discrimination Specifically, Section I of the Amendment read,
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction
thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No
State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or
immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person
of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person
within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. (Prosise & Smith, 2001, p.
Democratic opponents of the act argued that it would force associations between black
and white, even permit interracial marriage (Cottrol et al., 2003, p. 24). Nonetheless, it
was only part of the much larger Reconstruction of the South, "a regime more difficult to
bear than defeat," according to John Hope Franklin (1956, p. 311).
In several ways, the South was turned on its head in the Reconstruction years
following the Civil War. Legally, Southern state constitutions were to be rewritten, and
while most Southerners were to be disfranchised, Negroes and loyal whites would enjoy
the vote. Each constitutional convention, moreover, contained Negro members, yielding
up the most progressive legislation the South had ever known (Franklin, 1956, pp. 311,
316). Republican industrialists from the North, with an eye to the new Southern market,
descended where the law had slackened. Claims against "carpetbagging" were not
understated, Franklin claims, as "economic revolution, not Reconstruction" set a policy
tone where tariffif legislation was more important than civil rights [and] railroad
subsidies were more important than the suffrage" (p. 318).
To this end was established the Freedmen's Bureau, created in 1865 to aid
freedmen with supplies, medical services, schools, help with business contracts, and in
some cases, the lease or sale of abandoned lands (Franklin, 1956, p. 303). Their largest
contribution was to the cause of education and the creation of various schools for
freedmen. In many cases, the act was a collaboration of resources between the
Freedmen's Bureau's Federal funds, Northern philanthropic and religious organizations,
including the American Missionary Association, the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians,
and Episcopalians, and the freedmen themselves (Franklin, p. 304). Knox reports that
4,329 such schools were established by 1868, the Bureau contributing three-and-a-half
million dollars, philanthropies, one-and-a-half million dollars, and freedmen themselves,
eight hundred-thousand dollars of the $5,879,922 spent (Knox, 1947, p. 274). Among
colleges established were Howard University, Hampton Institute, St. Augustine's
College, Atlanta University, Fisk University, Storer College, and Biddle Memorial
Institute, now Johnson C. Smith University (Franklin, p. 304).
On the other hand, the same era saw the creation of several primarily white
institutions, as well, including Vanderbilt University, Johns Hopkins University, Leland
Stanford University, and the University of Chicago. As Franklin put it, "It was an age of
philanthropy" (1956, p. 378). Moreover, the motivations of these benevolent
organizations and Northern industrialists were called in to question and seen as an effort
to solidify the Republican party in the South, especially among Negro voters.
Specifically, the Union League recruited these new Republicans, needing only to remind
them which was the party of Abraham Lincoln and deliverance (Franklin, pp. 321-322).
Thus, the Freedmen's Bureau was met with resistance, both in the North, where it was
deemed expensive, and in the South where there was serious objection to federal
interference (Franklin, p. 303).
To this point, slaves had no formal education, as by 1835 it had become a crime to
teach a slave to read in every slave-holding state (Knox, 1947, p. 272). Many
slaveholders feared "enlightenment" would lead to rebellion (Knox, p. 272). For others,
ignorance ensured a more docile labor force-as one Virginia newspaper warned, "When
they learn to spell dog and cat they throw away the hoe" (Thernstrom & Thernstrom,
1997, p. 39). Other slaveholders were impelled by the desire to keep separate white girls
and mischievous Negro boys (Irons, 2002, p. 13). Finally, others simply saw no need to
educate racially "inferior" blacks in literature, foreign languages, or advanced
mathematics (Irons, p. 13).
Such views would be approbated in the 1849 Roberts v. City ofBoston, 59 Mass.
198 (1849) case before the Massachusetts Supreme Court. That court found that the
segregation of schools was a matter left to the "just grounds of reason and experience" of
the Boston city school board, not the courts. While acknowledging "that this maintenance
of separate schools tends to deepen and perpetuate the odious distinction of caste,
founded in a deep-rooted prejudice in public opinion," the Court nonetheless maintained,
"This prejudice, if it exists, is not created by law; and probably cannot be changed by
law" (Cottrol et al., 2003, p. 17). The decision was cited as a precedent in myriad cases
thereafter, including State of Ohio v. McCann, 21 Ohio St. 210 (1871), Wardv. Flood, 48
Cal. 36 (1874), Bertonneau v. New Orleans, 3 Woods 177, Fed. Cases 1 361 (1878), Cory
v. Carter, 48 Ind. 337 (1879), King v. Gallagher, 93 N.Y. 438 (1883), and Lehew v.
Brummell, 15 S.W. 765 (1890) (Irons, 2002, pp. 19-23). Each of these cases upheld
states' right to manage their schools as best seen fit to "promote the interest of all" (Irons,
p. 19). The last three cited even went on to declare school segregation as "favors to the
races designated" (Irons, p. 22) or "a regulation to their great advantage" (p. 23).
Now, however, in the Reconstruction, no rebel state was to be readmitted to the
union without repealing laws forbidding Negro education (Knox, 1947, p. 272). In
addition, the increase in government spending on education would come largely from
taxes on the ex-slaveholding planter class, as they owned more taxable wealth (Margo,
1990, p. 34). Wealthy and middle-class white parents and school administrators insisted,
as did the superintendent of schools of Tipton County, Tennessee, "[T]he negro should
bear the burden of his own education" (Margo, pp. 36-37). All the while hostilities were
being galvanized, Negroes were taking advantage of their new opportunities for
education. Franklin claims that for many, education was "the greatest single opportunity
to escape the increasing proscriptions and indignities that a renascent South was heaping
upon the Negroes" (1956, p. 377).
With pressure from Republican industrialists, the Federal government, and three
constitutional amendments, opposition in the South found little leverage, save subtle
forms of Negro disfranchisement, like poll taxes and literacy tests (Thernstrom &
Thernstrom, 1997, p. 30). To ensure illiterate whites were not excluded, various
"grandfather clauses" were amended, where such whites may vote, literally, if their
grandfather had (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, p. 31). The Negro vote was devastated: In
Louisiana, the percentage of eligible male Negro voters fell from 93 to three percent, and
to two percent in Alabama (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, p. 31). In other cases, polling
places were set at a distance from Negro communities, with closed roads and ferries
between them (Franklin, 1956, p. 329). To enforce such measures, organized whites
patrolled polling places and generally harassed Negroes as the Knights of the White
Camelia, the Constitutional Union Guards, the Pale Faces, the White Brotherhood, the
Council of Safety, the '76 Association, and the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, as well as
Regulators, Jayhawkers, and the Black Horse Cavalry in other parts of the country
(Franklin, pp. 322-323). Only in 1915 did the Supreme Court weigh in on such
obstructive measures (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, p. 31).
Reconstruction had fomented in different ways "the beginning of a harsh policy
toward the South" (Franklin, 1956, p. 301). Nevertheless, the Southern effort to
disfranchise the Negro eventually reestablished Democratic control over the South, and in
1877 Reconstruction came to an end, in the "Compromise" or "Stolen Election" of 1876.
Republican Rutherford Hayes secured a one-vote victory when a Democratic member of
the commission counting the electoral votes in the disputed election suddenly resigned,
after Hayes had promised "kind consideration" on the South (Irons, 2002, pp. 11-12). The
South had been "redeemed."
Jump Jim Crow
Historian Peter Irons marks the Redemption of 1877 as the point at which the
institution of slavery was replaced by the Jim Crow system of segregation (2002, p. 12).
C. Vann Woodward maintains that the Redeemers merely retained the existing
segregation practices without expanding its reach, though he acknowledges
inconsistencies between and within states (1974, pp. 31, 33). John Hope Franklin
identifies the first Jim Crow laws in 1875 in Tennessee trains, depots, and wharves and
South Carolina's outlawing in 1883 of the Civil Rights Acts of 1875 (1956, p. 338).
Woodward quotes Sir George Campbell of the British parliament, on visiting the South,
[T]he humblest black rides with the proudest white on terms of perfect equality,
and without the smallest symptom of malice or dislike on either side. I was, I
confess, surprised to see how completely this is the case; even an English Radical is
a little taken aback at first. (1974, p. 37)
Franklin, on the other hand, points out that as early as 1879, thousands of Negroes
had left Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia going North and West, that "there
was a veritable stampede to Kansas" (p. 392). At the 1885 International Exposition in
New Orleans, one might observe "white and colored people mingled freely, talking and
looking at what was of common interest," according to Woodward (p. 42). As a result,
there seems to be no consensus on the true state of race relation in these post-
Reconstruction years. Having cited evidence of amicability between the races in this
period, Woodward finally confesses,
It would certainly be preposterous to leave the impression that any evidence I have
submitted indicates a golden age of race relations in the period between
Redemption and complete segregation. On the contrary, the evidence of race
conflict and violence, brutality, and exploitation in this very period is
overwhelming. (p. 43)
Whatever the local status, the Jim Crow system existed, and has been attributed to
various causes. Woodward maintains, "conflict of some kind was unavoidable so long as
there remained any contact between the races whatever" (1974, p. 44). For others, the
phobia about sexual relations between black males and white females remained ample
reason to separate the races, though Thernstrom and Thernstrom point out the hypocrisy
of such logic: "[U]nder slavery many white masters took advantage of their female
slaves, who were powerless to say no. After Emancipation, it was not uncommon for
white men to have black mistresses" (1997, p. 42). Others identified the root of Jim Crow
as a lower-class white attitude, as a Negro periodical in North Carolina found in 1890:
"The best people of the South do not demand this separate car business this whole
thing is but a pandering to the lower instincts of the worst class of whites in the South"
(Woodward, p. 50). Finally, it is suggested that the relaxation of Northern opposition and
Southern liberalism gave rise to Jim Crow legislation (Woodward, p. 69).
The division of political power in the South at the time was pronounced and
decisive, as it had been in securing Southern Redemption. Woodward identifies three
competing philosophies: the conservatives (as the Democrats came to be known in the
South), Populist radicals, and outright liberals (1974, p. 45). Regarding race, the
conservative acknowledged the Negro's subordinate role, but denied that subordinates
were to be ostracized (Woodward, pp. 47-48). Hoping to tap in to Negro discontent over
Republican withdrawal from Reconstruction, conservative Democrats "courted, flattered,
'mistered,' and honored" Negro voters, yet realized little gain (Woodward, p. 59).
Southern Populists favored "an equalitarianism of want and poverty, the kinship of
a common grievance and a common oppressor" (Woodward, 1974, p. 61). The
movement's foremost leader, Tom Watson, would argue:
[T]he colored tenant... is in the same boat with the white tenant, the colored
laborer with the white laborer ... [T]he accident of color can make no difference in
the interests of farmers, croppers, and laborers [I]f you stand up for your rights
and for your manhood, if you stand shoulder to shoulder with us in this fight ...
[We will] wipe out the color line and put every man on his citizenship irrespective
of color. (Woodward, p. 63)
The Negro and white populist campaigner alike spoke from the same platforms to
audiences of both races, and both had their places on official party tickets (Woodward, p.
65). Franklin reports that there were even instances of alliances formed between the
Populists and the remnants of the old Republican organizations (1956, p. 333), yet by
1896, the movement would fold under the weight of such alliances (p. 334).
Strangely, the liberal element in the South was more inclined to sectional
reconciliation between the North and the South than the plight of the Negro. To them, the
Negro was cause to such differences. Liberals would defend the Southern view of the
Negro's "innate inferiority, shiftlessness, and hopeless unfitness for full participation in
the white man's civilization," in the pages of Nation, Harper's Weekly, the North
American Review, and the Atlantic Monthly, all in the name of reconciliation (Woodward,
1974, p. 70).
The bi-racial partnership of Populism shortly began to dissolve in much the same
frustration, the Southern conservative element having laid into the Negro vote sufficiently
to undo the movement (Woodward, 1974, p. 80). Thus, as in the case of the liberals, it
became much easier for the Populist to blame the Negro for their dwindling support and
eventual defeat and conciliation with conservative Democrats (Woodward, p. 81). The
Negro, through such political wrangling, stood to lose the most.
Separate But Equal
Two other major developments occurred before the turn of the century that would
bolster the growing cause of white supremacy in the South. In 1891, a "Citizens
Committee to Test the Constitutionality of the Separate Car Law" was formed in New
Orleans, under the general direction of Louis Martinet, a prominent black lawyer and
doctor. Homer Adolph Plessy, refusing to move from a East Louisiana Railway Company
train car designated for white passengers, was arrested June 7, 1892 (Margo, 1990, pp.
68-69). The subsequent case brought the issues of equality and segregation to the
attention of the United States Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US 537 (1896),
which ruled 7-1 that it lacked the power to impose racial integration, only affirm equality
in a "separate but equal" system (Irons, 2002, p. 25). Incidentally, the Court found
precedents in each of the aforementioned 1849-1890 cases that cited Roberts v. City of
Boston (Irons, p. 25). Justice Henry Brown, in the Majority Opinion, held that,
legislationin is powerless to eradicate racial instincts or to abolish distinctions based
upon physical differences," relying instead on the "liberty [of state lawmakers] to act
with reference to the established usages, customs, and traditions of the people, and with a
view to the promotion of their comfort, and the preservation of the public peace and good
order" (Woodward, 1974, p. 14; Irons, p. 26). These arguments would be crucial to the
development of segregation well into the twentieth century.
As surely, the arguments set forth in the case's lone dissent-that of Justice John
Marshall Harlan-would resurface. He insisted that the 13th and 14th Amendments
"removed the race line from our governmental systems," no longer allowing "any public
authority to know the race of those entitled to be protected in the enjoyment"
(Woodward, 1974, p. 15; Irons, 2002, p. 28). In oft-cited words, he argued, "Our
Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In
respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of
the most powerful" (Whitman, 1993, pp. 16-17). Consequently, the Plessy decision was
derided by one legal scholar as "a compound of bad logic, bad history, bad sociology, and
bad constitutional law" (Margo, 1990, pp. 68-69). Nevertheless, its doctrine, "separate
but equal," remained in effect for decades to come, applying legal sanction to all acts of
A Bloody Shirt
Before the turn of the century, the United States, under Republican leadership,
would embark on "imperialistic adventures" in the Pacific and the Caribbean,
encompassing "a varied assortment of inferior races, which, of course, could not be
allowed to vote," according to The Nation magazine (Woodward, 1974, p. 72). Southern
Democrats immediately recognized the double standard, and their arguments gained
strength. Thus South Carolina Senator "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman boasted,
No Republican leader, not even Governor Roosevelt, will now dare to wave the
bloody shirt and preach a crusade against the South's treatment of the Negro. The
North has a bloody shirt of its own. Many thousands of them have been made into
shrouds for murdered Filipinos, done to death because they were fighting for
liberty. (Woodward, p. 73)
The state's other senator, John J. McLaurin, responded by thanking Senator Hoar of
Massachusetts "for his complete announcement of the divine right of the Caucasian to
govern the inferior races," a position which "most amply vindicated the South"
(Woodward, p. 73). For all the turmoil it fomented, Jim Crow seemed to be approbated
by the United States' own policy.
The Twentieth Century
If the cause of white supremacy was a regional problem to this point, the turn of
the century brought the notion to the national conversation in several ways. Certainly Jim
Crow was in full operation by this point, the Negro novelist Charles W. Chestnutt
lamenting in 1903, "[T]he rights of the Negroes are at a lower ebb than at any time during
the thirty-five years of their freedom, and the race prejudice more intense and
uncompromising" (Woodward, 1974, p. 96). "God Almighty drew the color line and it
cannot be obliterated," argued the Richmond Times in 1900 in defense of separation
(Woodward, p. 96). Still others urged the deportation of Negroes, as did the Charleston
News and Courier in 1906: "Separation of the races is the only radical solution of the
Negro problem in this country ... There is no room for them here" (Woodward, p. 96).
From this movement sprung Marcus Garvey and his Universal Negro Improvement
Association, who urged Negro pride in their African ancestry by fleeing America,
returning to Africa, and establishing a country of their own in Liberia (Franklin, 1956, p.
481). At any rate, the exodus never fully materialized.
By 1913, residential ordinances, first in Louisville, Baltimore, Richmond, and
Atlanta (Franklin, 1956, p. 429), restricted the choice of Negroes to poor neighborhoods,
but such laws never humiliated quite like other instances of segregation. New Orleans
segregated its prostitutes in separate districts, and in Atlanta, Jim Crow Bibles were used
in the courts for Negro litigants (Woodward, 1974, p. 102). A Florida law required that
school textbooks used by one race were to be stored separately from those used by the
other race (Margo, 1990, p. 70; Woodward, p. 102). In fact, by this point the only facet of
Negro life not impacted by Jim Crow laws, according to C. Vann Woodward, was air
travel, a service generally unused by Negroes anyway (p. 102). Thernstrom and
Thernstrom (1997), among others, point to variability in Jim Crow laws from place to
place, much as Woodward had earlier described during Restoration, and declare such
inconsistency to be one of segregation's worst aspects (p. 44). Cottrol, et al. (2003)
charges that "[a]t its zenith this system of segregation would turn Negroes into a group of
American untouchables," calling the system one of "caste" (p. 28).
Those who instituted the Jim Crow system sought affirmation in the new doctrine
of Social Darwinism. Sociologist William Graham Sumner's 1907 Folkways, credited
with the lion's share of the doctrine's growth, argued, "legislation cannot make mores ...
stateways cannot change folkways" that were "uniform, universal in the group,
imperative, and invariable" (Woodward, 1974, p. 103). This and works by Sumner
proteges, such as Franklin Henry Giddings and William McDougall, came to represent
the dominant American social theory of the early twentieth century, bolstering the cause
of states' rights to white supremacy (Woodward, p. 103). The doctrine would be accepted
among a range of professionals, including biologists, sociologists, anthropologists,
historians, journalists, and novelists (Woodward, p. 74). Sumner's logic would survive
even decades later. In January 1944's Atlantic Monthly, David Cohn of Mississippi
It is William Graham Sumner's dictum that you cannot change the mores of a
people by law, and since social segregation of the races is the most deep-seated and
pervasive of the Southern mores, it is evident that he who attempts to change it by
law runs risks of incalculable gravity [even] civil war. (Woodward, p. 104)
The social ramifications of this new view would be felt in all areas of life, but
particularly in education. In 1893, a U.S. Bureau of Education report stated, "[T]he
colored race is only capable of receiving and profiting by an elementary education, which
costs comparatively much less than that suitable for the white race in its more advanced
stages of civilizations" (Margo, 1990, p. 44). Many feel that no one capitulated to that
view more than Booker T. Washington. At his famous "Atlanta Compromise" address to
the 1895 Atlanta Exposition, he reasoned, "I believe in industrial education, which tends
to make the Negro lose himself in his job. He does not then have so much opportunity to
become bitter" (Irons, 2002, p. 30). Many could not support his endorsement of
segregation: "In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the five fingers,
yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress" (Franklin, 1956, p. 385).
Washington was also criticized for his purely economic path to Negro advancement, he
conceding "white men will vote funds for Negro education just in proportion to their
belief in the value of that education" (Irons, p. 31). His most outspoken opponent in this
regard was W.E.B. DuBois, who argued in 1903's "The Talented Tenth," "If we make
money the object of man-training, we shall develop money-makers but not necessarily
men" (Franklin, p. 388).
DuBois urged full recognition of the Negro, and he and other Negro leaders
would gather on Lincoln's birthday in 1909, calling on "all believers in democracy to join
in a National conference for the discussion of present evils, the voicing of protests, and
the renewal of the struggle for civil and political liberty" (Franklin, 1956, p. 438). Jane
Addams, William Dean Howells, and John Dewey, among others, would create a
permanent organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People (NAACP), which pledged to work for the abolition of segregation, the complete
enfranchisement of the Negro, and the enforcement of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth
Amendments (Franklin, p. 439). As a majority in America favored Washington's
capitulatory tone, the presence of Dr. DuBois on the staff, as well as the organization's
journal Crisis, which he edited, branded the NAACP as radical (Franklin, p. 339).
Around this time, in 1912, Democrat Woodrow Wilson was elected President, and
reviews of his service to race are mixed. Cottrol, Diamond, and Ware (2003, p. 39)
identify Wilson as a champion of segregation, strengthening its hold on the federal civil
service and armed services. Franklin claims Wilson's first Congress to have received "the
greatest flood of bills proposing discriminatory legislation against Negroes that has ever
been introduced into an American Congress" (1956; pp. 445-446). Woodward, on the
other hand, speaks highly of "the striking success" of Wilson's progressive reforms,
crediting their "vigor" to progressive Southern cabinet members and congressional
leaders (1974; p. 92). To be sure, President Wilson led a country at war; but when in
1917, Emmet J. Scott, a Negro, was appointed Special Assistant to the Secretary of War,
many feel it was only a response to German propaganda over American-style
discrimination (Franklin, p. 449).
For the Negro on American soil, little was changing for the better. Moreover,
segregation was generally a national problem by then. Those in the North who did not
form their impressions from the realism of the Muckrakers, whom attacked "urban
blight" and "numerous other urgent conditions" (Franklin, 1956, p. 431), might have been
impressed by Thomas Dixon's racist novel The Clansmen, or D.W. Griffith's 1915 film
Birth of a Nation, based on the Dixon novel (Cottrol et al., 2003, p. 36; Woodward, 1974,
p. 86). Romanticized by this view and prevalent social theories of Negro inferiority, the
Ku Klux Klan enjoyed a revival that same year of more than 100,000 knights, declaring
itself against Negroes, Japanese and other Orientals, Roman Catholics, Jews, and all
foreign-born persons (Franklin, p. 471). Cells flourished in several New England States,
as well as New York, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and other Northern and Midwestern
states (Franklin, p. 471). In 1919, more than 70 Negroes were lynched, James Weldon
Johnson declaring it "The Red Summer" (Franklin, p. 472). Even returning Negro
soldiers, having just tasted and fought for democracy overseas, were lynched, some still
in uniform (Woodward, p. 114). Where there was not lynching, there flared riots; Both
Franklin (p. 435) and Woodward (p. 114) observe these practices to be as vicious and
nearly as prevalent in the North as in the South. American cities at the time saw some 25
riots, in Springfield, Illinois; Longview, Texas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Elaine, Arkansas;
Knoxville, Tennessee; and Chicago, among others (Franklin, p. 473, Woodward, p. 114).
A Great Migration
Negroes sought relief from this treatment much as they had during
Reconstruction-through migration and education. Stories of returning Negro soldiers
being lynched in the South contradicted accounts from New York City, which "seemed
never to tire of the apparently endless parade of troops, both black and white, that
proceeded almost immediately from their ships to make the triumphal march up Fifth
Avenue" (Franklin, 1956, p. 469). Northern and western cities were viewed as "promised
lands" and scores of Negroes (as well as whites) made their way there. Most scholars
point to the availability of war-time labor positions, though some figure the move was
inspired more by the 1910-1916 boll weevil invasion and destruction of the Southern
cotton economy (Reddick, 1947, p. 294; see also Knox, 1947). Margo claims that the
North was not prepared for the Negro influx, faced with deplorable conditions and high
rents in migrant neighborhoods, as well as its own brand of racial etiquette (1990, p. 114;
Myrdal, 1944, p. 196). Regardless, the migration happened and was supported by the
National Urban League, created in 1911 to assist and point out opportunities for newly
arrived Negroes, with branches in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Philadelphia,
and Pittsburgh (Franklin, pp. 441, 465). More importantly, such organization and a
relatively more democratic way of urban living inspired a "stimulation of self-respect and
racial cohesiveness" among the displaced Negroes (Franklin, p. 476).
New Negro Movement
From such organization emerged another display of Negro strength. The "Harlem
Renaissance," or "New Negro Movement," as Franklin (1956, p. 490) prefers, was born
of this first Great Migration, which, according to Margo's data analysis, "drew its ranks
disproportionately from the better-educated segments of the black population" (1990, pp.
49, 112). This Negro literary and artistic awakening of the 1920s and 1930s, which saw
the emergence of writers and poets James Wheldon Johnson, Jean Toomer, Countee
Cullen, and Langston Hughes, saw an creative explosion in other artistic forms, too.
Through music and theater, Negroes found their voice, as Paul Robeson, who, in 1924's
production of Eugene O' Neill's All God's Chillun Got Wings, marked the first time a
Negro had taken a principal role opposite a white woman, a performance free from
aftershock (Franklin, pp. 495-498). Not only had New York City long been the center of
intellectual and cultural life of Negro America, "Ever since Bert Williams and George
Walker reached New York in 1896 and introduced their highly successful vaudeville
team, Negroes had furnished a considerable portion of New York's entertainment" (p.
499). John Hope Franklin deems 1921's .\luyjl/ Along, "the most brilliant New York had
ever witnessed" (p. 495). It was also in New York where T. Thomas Fortune edited his
militant New York Age, and soon, other Negro leaders made their way to America's
epicenter, eager to enjoy the benefits of urbanization (Franklin, pp. 492-493). Several
Negro journals emerged from this period, such as DuBois's Phylon, A Journal ofRace
and Culture, from of Atlanta University, and the Journal of Negro Education, begun in
1931 at Howard University. Its summer edition, a yearbook, became one of the most
important sources of information on the historical, sociological, and educational aspects
of Negro life, according to Franklin (p. 547).
Besides accomplished literature, celebrated today, the New Negro Movement also
aroused sympathy and support among white intellectuals and philanthropists (Woodward,
1974, p. 125). Major periodicals in the New York area, like Survey Graphic, Current
History, The Modern Quarterly, The Nation, The New Masses, and The American
Mercury, published Negro thought in multiple formats (Franklin, 1956, p. 497). As
surely, there was specific attention being paid to Negro education by both races, to the
extent that Myrdal, in 1944, appraising this period, suggested, "The intellectual energy
spent on the Negro problem in America should, if concentrated in a single direction, have
moved mountains" (p. 27).
Just as during Reconstruction, Negroes saw in education a means to relief of their
own power. In the South, conditions remained deplorable for Negro students, the United
States Bureau of Education reported in 1917, though the situation was worse in the Deep
South than the Upper South, and in more heavily black counties (Margo, 1990, p. 19).
The black-to-white ratio of per pupil expenditures in Alabama, for example, was 0.19,
while in Maryland, 0.46. The same measure for heavily Negro-populated counties (50-
75% of the population) was 0.14, and 0.58 in counties with a lighter Negro density (10-
25% of the population) (Margo, p. 19). Miller (1952) reports the same discrepancy not to
have existed in the North and West, where traditionally schools were open to all, tax-
supported, utilitarian to a high degree, adaptable to frontier conditions and locally
controlled (pp. 285-286).
As more and more Negroes left the South for urban centers, it would present
unforeseen problems to the South. Businessmen and community leaders alike were afraid
of losing their clientele and their communities (Myrdal, 1944, p. 196). Also, the potential
economic benefits of a better-educated Negro labor force would be lost on the South
(Margo, 1990, p. 47). Many, including the United States Department of Education
reasoned, "With good schools ... there will be less incentive for the country people to
crowd into cities and towns to educate their children" (Margo, p. 48). Genuine push-pull
mechanisms were at work on the Negro.
Thus, not unlike Reconstruction, this period saw the establishment of many Negro
schools, with the assistance of philanthropic foundations. The Julius Rosenwald Fund
(1913-1932) alone aided in construction of more than 5,000 Negro school buildings in 15
Southern states, accounting for more than 30% of all Negro schools in the South
(Franklin, 1956, pp. 535-536). Again, though, because 64% of the $28 million came from
tax funds, 15% was contributed by the Rosenwald Fund, 4% by interested white persons,
and 17% by Negroes themselves (Franklin, p. 535), it was viewed by many as an exercise
in self-interest all around, as opposed to a case of genuine liberalism (Margo, 1990, p.
A New Deal
Much of the political landscape in the 1930s resembled the political wrangling
that had marked the 1880s and 1890s. As then, the Negro political segment often
determined political outcomes, only this time, their voices would be heard. When in
1928, Herbert Hoover was elected on behalf of a strong Republican showing among the
white South, the time had come for the Negro to cut ties with the party of Lincoln, given
the Republican willingness to alienate the Negro vote in pursuit of political advantage
over the Democrats (Franklin, 1956, p. 514). In the next election, of all the groups that
switched to the Democratic party, none moved as dramatically as the Negroes, 76% of
whom voted for Roosevelt (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 1997, p. 65). The dawn of such a
move, incidentally, emerged from New York City (Franklin, p. 516).
In the midst of the Great Depression, the great majority of both races in the South,
beset by common financial strife, joined the same political party. The new liberal
administration appeared to be genuinely concerned with the plight of all depressed,
Negro and white (Woodward, 1974, p. 118), but evidence exists on either side. For
Franklin, Roosevelt's program captured the imagination of Negroes as it did most
Americans, "his fireside chats [giving] many a feeling of belonging that they had never
experienced before" (Franklin, 1956, p. 516). Moreover, Roosevelt associated frequently
with Negro visitors, institutions, and organizations (p. 516). The first lady was even more
outspoken in this regard, and when she was photographed being escorted by two
R.O.T.C. cadets on a visit to Howard University, much stirring ensued: Negroes
celebrated the demonstration of equalitarianism of the White House, while Southern
whites circulated the picture to show the willingness of the administration to deal with
Negroes (Franklin, p. 517). At any rate, Roosevelt's cabinet featured several Negro
members, earning it the moniker "the Black Cabinet" (Franklin, p. 519).
Roosevelt's programs received mixed reviews from the Negro community. Some,
like the FSA (Farm Security Administration), allowed thousands of Negroes their first
ability to purchase land (Franklin, 1956, p. 524). Under the PWA (Public Works
Administration), Negro hospitals and other public buildings were constructed, while the
WPA (Works Progress Administration) provided material relief and some employment,
and was surpassed only by agriculture and domestic service jobs as sources of income for
the Negro population (Franklin, p. 526). Under Roosevelt's Executive Order 8802, the
Fair Employment Practices Committee was established to hear complaints of
discrimination and take "appropriate steps to redress grievances" (Thernstrom &
Thernstrom, 1997, p. 72).
On the other hand, critics point to the failure of some New Deal programs. The
CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) provided much student work, but maintained a strict
policy of segregation (Franklin, 1956, p, 526). AAA (Agricultural Adjustment
Administration) grants often dissipated or were misappropriated (Franklin, p. 523). The
Social Security Act of 1935 excluded agricultural and domestic service workers from its
benefits, thus benefiting only one-third of American Negroes (Talese, 1978, p. 64;
Franklin, p. 526). The NRA (National Industrial Recovery Act) intention to raise wages
had the perverse effect of removing the incentive to hire black workers who would accept
lower wages than whites, eliminating by one estimate 500,000 Negro jobs-making it, in
the view of the black press, the "Negro Removal Act" (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 1997,
p. 64; Franklin, p. 523). Some attribute the shortcomings of such relief programs to the
strong support Roosevelt received from conservative Southern Democrats, and, in fact, in
1937, Roosevelt opposed an anti-lynching bill (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, p. 67).
Regardless of such criticisms, it is generally agreed that the era in which Roosevelt was
able to enact such legislation was marked by a tone of Negro tolerance and liberalism that
would not be lost on Negro voters to the Democratic party. National tolerance, on the eve
of a second World War, would take on an international presence and urgency, and heat
was applied, once more, to the South (Woodward, 1974, pp. 118-119).
An American Dilemma
Thernstrom and Thernstrom (1997, p. 70), claim, of the period 1940-1950,
It is not an overstatement to say that no ethnic group in American history has ever
improved its position so dramatically in so short a period, though it must be said in
the same breath that no other group had so far to go.
Professor of Economics Robert Margo provides a statistical analysis to the same effect,
finding significantat gains in relative black status since World War Two, as measured by
the black-to-white earnings ratio" in "contrast with a period of little change between the
turn of the century and the eve of World War Two" (1990, p. 1). To appreciate such
changes, it becomes necessary to have in mind a firm sense the Negro's general status in
this period. By far, the most substantial look at such conditions came in Gunnar Myrdal's
1944 survey, An American Dilemma, a 1400-page tome which came to be considered the
definitive treatise on the Negro's past, present, and future. The limit to the insight that
may be gleaned from such work is one of time alone.
Myrdal's first page reads, "There is a 'Negro problem' in the United States and
most Americans are aware of it" (1944, p. xlv), specifying "When we say that there is a
Negro problem in America, what we mean is that the Americans are worried about it. It is
on their minds and on their consciences" (p. 26). If this was not the case, it certainly
would be after consulting An American Dilemma, wherein Myrdal, among other tasks,
details the "thousand and one precepts, etiquettes, taboos, and disabilities" in the nation,
but particularly in the South, all with "a common purpose: to express the subordinate
status of the Negro people and the exalted position of the whites" (p. 66).
Myrdal found that,
Except for a small minority enjoying upper or middle class status, the masses of
American Negroes, in the rural South and in the segregated slum quarters in
Southern cities, are destitute. They own little property; even their household goods
are mostly inadequate and dilapidated. Their incomes are not only low but
irregular. (p. 205)
In spite of the claim, Negro gains were realized in this period-economically, if not
socially. Thernstrom and Thernstrom (1997) report that in 1940, some 87 per cent of
black families were in poverty, but that within a decade, the rate would fall by 17 per
cent, and in the 1950s, down to 39 per cent (p. 83). They also provide that in the 1940s,
the earnings of the average black man, adjusted for inflation, rose 75%, and in the 1950s,
another 45% (pp. 81-82), and that the earnings of white men grew at half that rate in the
same decades (p. 82). Gains were realized in employment as well. Where almost three-
quarters of a million black families were tenants or sharecroppers in the South in 1930,
by 1950, barely half that figure existed (p. 65). Fair Employment Practices Commissions
(FEPCs) were established in eleven states and twenty-eight cities in the North between
1945 and 1951 (Patterson, 2001, p. 2). Some 42 per cent of people polled nationwide in
1944 felt "Negroes should have as good a chance as white people to get any kind of job"
(Thernstrom & Thernstrom, p. 73).
On the other hand, in the South, segregation persisted in most work and social
situations. Negroes were not allowed in libraries, public parks, roller skating rinks,
bowling alleys, municipal swimming pools, public tennis courts, hospitals, motels, hotels,
and most conspicuously, restaurants (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 1997, pp. 41-44. Gunnar
Myrdal attested in 1944 that "segregation is now becoming so complete that the white
Southerner practically never sees a Negro except as his servant and in other standardized
and formalized caste situations" (p. 41).
Where there was trouble between the races, the Negro was afforded little
protection from the police or the courts (Myrdal, 1944, p. 530). "[U]nless a white man
acquires a reputation for being mean and unjust," Myrdal found, "his occasional violation
of a Negro's legal rights is felt to be justified or-at most-'his own business'" (p. 530).
Negro-on-Negro crime was dismissed altogether. One Mississippi newspaper editor
likened it to "dog chewing on dog and the white people are not interested in the matter.
Only another dead nigger-that's all" (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, p. 48). Nine Southern
states by 1944 employed a total of six black police officers, with comparably low
statistics for attorneys and judges (Myrdal, p. 543).
In the area of education, Franklin found, "For the last two generations the bulk of
Negro children have attended impoverished, small, short-term schools with pronounced
inadequacies in every phase of the educational program" (1956, p. 534). While most
schools were physically inadequate, in as many as 203 counties in 1938-1939, schools
simply stopped short of high school, and in another 87 counties, schools stopped at
primary education (Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 1997, p. 38). Moreover, fully one-third of
all Negro teachers in the same period had no high school diploma (Thernstrom &
Thernstrom, p. 38). Expenditures per pupil in the South were less than half the national
average, and as little as one-thirteenth the amount spent per white pupil in the same areas
(Thernstrom & Thernstrom, p. 37). To be sure, Negroes saw educational improvements,
particularly as they migrated to urban centers, where there was more taxable wealth to
spend on education (Franklin, 1956, p. 534).
Perhaps the American institution most asserted to represent democratic ideals of
liberty and equality is education, and the desire for tasting such democracy may serve to
explain the relief Negroes sought in it during the Reconstruction and again in the 1920s
and 1930s in education. It was the determination of most Negroes to effect desegregated
schools, they being "the logical, legitimate offspring of a democratic culture," historian
Lawrence Reddick noted:
Its father and mother are the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of
the United States. To continue the figure, the separate school, in those places where
it is not legal, therefore is not only a paradox and a contradiction but the bastard
child of the old whore, race prejudice. (1947, p. 300)
All of America, not Negroes alone, stood to gain from desegregated schools: "Let us not
forget that white students and teachers have much to learn from their contacts with their
Negro students and fellow teachers. They, too, need to learn to live in One World"
(Reddick, p. 300).
Negroes, too, Myrdal assured, "are under the spell of the great national
suggestion" (1944, p. 4), and they gave ample voice to Myrdal's observation. For James
Wheldon Johnson, "The race question involves the saving of black America's body and
white America's soul" (1934, p. 318). Elsewhere, Johnson revealed that "the dwarfing,
warping, distorting influence which operates upon each and every coloured man in the
United States [is that .. ] He is forced to take his outlook on all things, not from the
view-point of a citizen, or a man, or even a human being, but from the view-point of a
coloured man" (1927, p. 21).
Myrdal presents a compelling synopsis of Jim Crow segregation, whereby degrees
of white liberalism regarding such practices may be rank-ordered:
The relative significance attached to each of those measures is dependent upon their
degree of expediency or necessity-in the view of white people-as means of
upholding the ban on 'intermarriage.' In this rank order, (1) the ban on
intermarriage and other sex relations involving white women and colored men
takes precedence before everything else. It is the end for which the other
restrictions are arranged as means. Thereafter follow: (2) all sorts of taboos and
etiquettes in personal contacts; (3) segregation in schools and churches; (4)
segregation in hotels, restaurants, and theaters, and other public places where
people meet socially; (5) segregation in public conveyances; (6) discrimination in
public services; and finally, inequality in (7) politics, (8) justice and (9)
breadwinning and relief. The degree of liberalism on racial matters in the white
South can be designated mainly by the point on this rank order where a man stops
because he believes further segregation and discrimination are not necessary to
prevent "intermarriage." (Whitman, 1993, pp. 25-26)
The more notable concept of Myrdal's, however, is the notion alluded to in the title of his
treatise, An American Dilemma. In his words,
The 'American Dilemma, referred to in the title of this book, is the ever-raging
conflict between, on the one hand, the valuations preserved on the general plane
which we shall call the 'American Creed, 'where the American thinks, talks, and
acts under the influence of high national and Christian precepts, and, on the other
hand, the valuations on specific planes of individual and group living, where
personal and local interests; economic, social, and sexual jealousies;
considerations of community prestige and conformity; group prejudice against
particular persons or types ofpeople; and all sorts of miscellaneous wants,
impulses, and habits dominate his outlook. (1944, p. xlvii, italics in original)
The Carnegie Corporation, the sponsor of his study, perhaps could detect the
presence of such a double standard, insisting for their research on Myrdal, a Swedish
economist, "someone 'in a nonimperialistic country with no background of domination of
one race over another' who, presumably 'would approach the situation with an entirely
fresh mind'" (Myrdal, p. xviii). Implied in Myrdal's statement is the presence of an
overall American Creed: "When the American Creed is once detected, the cacophony
becomes a melody," he observes, noting that the United States, more than any other