University of Leicester
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The Outward Face of Massive Resistance: Segregationists’ Media Strategies during the 1950s and 1960s

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posted on 2020-02-04, 16:02 authored by Scott Weightman
to win broad support for massive resistance and construct a national countermovement against desegregation and civil rights. It reveals a protracted battle over hearts and minds between civil rights activists and massive resisters during the 1950s and 1960s through a series of detailed case studies which comprise a cumulative examination of segregationists’ efforts to influence and mobilise public opinion. Chapter 1 investigates how resisters sought to contest dominant media narratives concerning segregation by capitalising on racial strife in northern cities and selling segregation as a viable social system. Chapter 2 explores the level of consensus, collaboration, and disagreement between segregationists across the South concerning the most effective media strategy and demonstrates how public relations expertise was used to enhance their media ventures. Chapter 3 uncovers a pronounced shift in approach catalysed by Carleton Putnam, highlighting the full extent of his impact and a far-reaching, multifaceted, multimedia campaign to promote his ideas. Chapter 4 investigates segregationists’ attempts to produce dramatic photographic and cinematic imagery to recalibrate public perception of the civil rights movement, the federal government, and their combined efforts to enforce desegregation and civil rights. The thesis evaluates the effectiveness of resisters’ manifold attempts to harness different forms of mass media, revealing both their successes and failures. It uncovers how some of the most savvy strategists found ways to constrain the civil rights movement and assesses how they positioned some aspects of segregationist thought as part of a broader, national conservative ideology. By tracing the ebb and flow of segregationist media strategies, it offers new and important insights into the nature and trajectory of massive resistance, the successes and shortcomings of the civil rights movement, and the development of a new national conservatism.



George Lewis; Sharon Monteith

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of History, Politics and International Relations

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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