Sunday, November 02, 2008

Obama and Mississippi

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger was a notoriously hardline segregationist newspaper in the 1960s, owned by the Hederman family. Anyone who knows something about the role the Hederman press played in opposing the civil rights movement then shouldn't have any trouble getting their heads around the idea that the mainstream press today could very well be damaging the prospect for a democratic society and a peaceful foreign policy. The Hederman heirs did redeem the family name in recent years: they now publish the New York Review of Books, the archetype of a "liberal intellectual" journal. And the current owners pf tje Clarion-Ledger are a bit different from those days, too. Bob McElvaine explains.

Mississippi's Largest Paper Endorses Obama by Robert S. McElvaine

If Colonel Robert McCormack, the longtime publisher of the arch-Republican Chicago Tribune is spinning in his grave as a result of that paper's endorsement two weeks ago of Democrat Barack Obama, imagine what sort of posthumous somersaults the brothers Thomas and Robert Hederman must be doing after this morning's editorial in the Mississippi paper they controlled for a half century through the middle deacdes of the twentieth century.

No major media organ was more intransigent in its support for segregation and its opposition to the civil rights movement than the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi. Typical of the paper's attitudes on racial questions was its headline after the 1963 March on Washington at which Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech:

WASHINGTON IS CLEAN AGAIN WITH NEGRO TRASH REMOVED

In the days when the Hederman brothers owned the paper, it frequently warned of the dangers of the horror of "miscegenation."


This morning the Clarion-Ledger endorsed a mixed race man who identifies himself (as the Hederman brothers would have identified him) as black for president of the United States!

The times, they have a-changed.

[Historian Robert S. McElvaine is Elizabeth Chisholm Professor of Arts & Letters at Millsaps College and the author of The Great Depression: America, 1929-1941 (Random House). His latest book is Grand Theft Jesus: The Hijacking of Religion in America (Crown).]

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