December 2021

“Sisters of Charity Administering to Sick and Dying Victims of Yellow Fever,” sketch from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Sept. 20, 1879

Volume 47, No. 4, Dec. 2021

The December issue contains articles by Sheryl Kennedy Haydel, Kathryn Montalbano, Tracy Lucht & Chelsea Davis, and Kelli Boling. Interested in reading these articles? Get information on subscribing here.

Article Abstracts

“For Country, Culture, and Respect: The Bennett Banner’s Use of Journalism to Promote Equality from a Black Feminist Perspective,” Sheryl Kennedy Haydel (podcast)
This study examines articles published in the Bennett Banner, the student-run newspaper on the campus of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina, from 1931 to 1959. This exploration focuses on how the Banner covered race, politics, and community building during the decades of economic instability and racial unrest leading to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Findings indicate that the Banner, founded on the campus of one of the country’s oldest historically Black colleges, distinguished itself as a place where Black women empowered other Black women to assert their collective voices to rally for racial equality. The student editors and writers embraced a mission to engage the paper’s audience by delivering news about race, politics, and community building from a Black feminist perspective. The Banner embraced the traditional role of the Black press—that of being the champion for the race and a source of intentional agitation.

“Preventing Yellow Jack and Yellow Journalism: Tensions in Mississippi Valley News Coverage of the 1878 Yellow Fever Epidemic,” Kathryn Montalbano (research essay)
During the 1878 yellow fever epidemic, newspapers in the Mississippi Valley region aimed to prevent the spread of the disease to their populations by (1) reporting on strategies of prevention and (2) criticizing misinformation from both within their own communities and in newspapers from other towns that obfuscated public understanding of the disease. This in turn (3) highlighted the tensions between cities and their respective newspapers. Journalists writing for these papers—in particular, in Vicksburg and New Orleans—penned accusations that reporters in the other city either sensationalized or understated the impact of the epidemic, thereby undermining their own ability to protect their hometowns from threats to public health, economic stability, and regional or national reputations. At times, multiple papers from the same city argued about the accuracy of each other’s epidemic coverage. Although public health, science, medicine, and journalism have developed tremendously since 1878, this story reminds us of the significance of local news and cooperation between citizens and journalists when facing contemporary health crises, such as COVID-19. Without a robust foundation for covering epidemics on the local level, broader journalistic networks are far less equipped to fulfill their essential roles in mitigating outbreaks.

Gender, Race, and Place in Newspaper Coverage of Women ‘Firsts’ after the Nineteenth Amendment,” Tracy Lucht & Chelsea Davis (podcast)
Grounded in feminist theory, this study builds upon historical research regarding newspaper coverage of women in politics by analyzing how five trailblazers of different races, ethnicities, and regions were written about after the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified. Using textual analysis, the authors identify three primary themes—erasure, marginalization, and selective legitimation—in local newspaper coverage of Cora Reynolds Anderson, Hattie Wyatt Caraway, Soledad Chávez Chacón, Crystal Bird Fauset, and Nellie Tayloe Ross during the 1920s-30s. The findings demonstrate intersectionality at work in how news discourse functioned to challenge or support the women’s legitimacy as political actors.

“’We Matter’: Cultural Significance of a Counter-Narrative Black Public Affairs Program,” Kelli S. Boling (teaching essay)
Awareness is believed to be the longest-running locally-produced African American public affairs show in the country. Through thirteen oral history interviews and archival documents, this article examines how African American public affairs shows, like Awareness, played an integral role in the civil rights movement by presenting a counter-narrative to what was seen on mainstream news. Through this counter-narrative, Awareness had the unique ability to elevate the conversation beyond protests and demonstrations, and deeply discuss issues that could potentially alter the Southern mind-set of Blacks and improve race relations in the South. As the show approached its 50th anniversary, this article covers the launching of the show as well as reflections of those involved in this milestone.