THE CAUTIOUS CRUSADER: HOW THE ATLANTA DAILY WORLD COVERED THE STRUGGLE FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN RIGHTS FROM 1945 TO 1985

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2005-05-24

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Title of Dissertation:

THE CAUTIOUS CRUSADER: HOW THE ATLANTA DAILY WORLD COVERED THE STRUGGLE FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN RIGHTS FROM 1945 TO 1985

Name:

Maria E. Odum-Hinmon

Doctor of Philosophy, 2005

Dissertation Directed By:

Prof. Maurine Beasley, Ph. D.

Philip Merrill College of Journalism

This dissertation is a study of the Atlanta Daily World, a conservative black newspaper founded in 1928, that covered the civil rights struggle in ways that reflected its orientation to both democratic principles and practical business concerns.  The World became the most successful black daily newspaper in the nation after becoming a daily in 1932 and maintaining that status for nearly four decades.  This dissertation details how this newspaper chronicled the simultaneous push for civil rights, better conditions in the black community, and recognition of black achievement during the volatile period of social change following World War II. 

Using descriptive, thematic analysis and in-depth interviews, this dissertation explores the question: How did the Atlanta Daily World crusade for the rights of African Americans against a backdrop of changing times, particularly during the crucial forty-year period between 1945 and 1985?  The study contends that the newspaper carried out its crusade by highlighting information and events important to the black community from the perspective of the newspaper’s strong-willed publisher, C. A. Scott, and it succeeded by relying on Scott family members and employees who worked long hours for low wages.  

The study shows that the World fought against lynching and pushed for voting rights in the 1940s and 1950s. The newspaper eschewed sit-in demonstrations to force eateries to desegregate in the 1960s because they seemed dangerous and counterproductive when the college students wound up in jail rather than in school.  The World endorsed Republican Presidents and was not swayed to the other side when the Rev. Jesse Jackson ran for President in 1984.  The newspaper, however, drew a line against the conservative agenda when the World wholeheartedly endorsed the merits of affirmative action. 

Now a weekly under more liberal leadership, the World continues to struggle to find its new role when blacks are more assimilated than ever into the fabric of American society.  This dissertation, the first in-depth scholarly study of the newspaper, shows how it has managed to maintain itself as a voice of middle-class African American belief in the democratic process.

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