Conference Archives

1999 Abstracts

B. Tripp, “Tales in Black and White: The Two Faces of 19th-Century Abolitionist James Redpath”

Throughout history, societal taboos or events have often placed restrictions on the public expression or professional activities of certain groups, requiring writers to use a name other than their own. However, for James Redpath and many others in the 19th century, the different identity was a necessity. This veil of secrecy had been a ploy to safeguard their lives or to establish credibility for themselves while affording them the opportunity to speak out during blacks' struggles for freedom and equal rights. This study examines the role of Redpath, who not only wrote as a white abolitionist, but also assumed the persona of a black male in order to address a black audience and offer a voice during the antislavery movement.


To Liberator and National Anti-Slavery Standard readers he would be John Ball Jr., a young, free-born black man from Iowa. To readers of the Boston Daily Traveller, the New York Tribune, and numerous other mainstream newspapers, he was “Jacobius,” “James Redpath,” or several other pen names.


Redpath established his goal as one to "aid the slaves," no matter what. He declared that if he found the slaves to be contented with their condition, he would spend his time in the South “disseminating discontentment.” But if the slaves were “ripe for a rebellion,” he resolved to prepare the way for it.


He would become one of the first journalists to practice the brand of participatory journalism so prevalent 100 years later. His plan: to make several forays into slaveholding states to talk to the slaves himself; and to provide an eyewitness perspective on their condition. However, the correspondence he would send to the abolitionist and mainstream newspapers would be representative of white, as well as black, perspectives.


Ford Risley, Penn State University, “Wartime News over Southern Wires: The Confederate Press Association”

When the Associated Press severed its telegraph lines to the South six days after the surrender of Fort Sumter, the newspapers of the Confederacy were left without any cooperative arrangement for news gathering and distribution.  Southern editors immediately recognized that a new system had to be devised if journals were going to provide readers with timely news of the Civil War.  After several failed attempts, editors established the Confederate Press Association in March 1863.  The PA, as it often was known, was beset with problems, including an uncooperative Richmond press and the loss of key newspapers over the course of the war.  Still, thanks to an aggressive superintendent and a core group of dedicated members, the Association managed to serve the basic needs of the South's readers for news of the Civil War.


The persistence of Southern editors in finding a mutual arrangement for sending and receiving telegraphic news from the war was a clear signal that the journalism practiced in the region was changing from the old partisan practices that had dominated newspapers for so long.  News was beginning to replace opinion as the main emphasis of the South's newspapers, just as it had decades earlier in the North.  Moreover, the organization and practices that guided the work of the Confederate Press Association for two years foretold the shape of cooperative news reporting after the Civil War.


G. Bush

In the post-Civil War South, freedmen who could read cringed when newspapers described them as inferior and editorialized about whites’ God-given duty to hold blacks down, even by the most violent means. Bitter whites commonly wrote about the need to kill blacks to keep them in their place. At the same time, the Ku Klux Klan and other terrorist groups began functioning as military arms of the Democratic Party.  This paper looks at the role Democratic editors played in inflaming this terrorism.


Racist whites feared “herrenvolk democracy” – black suffrage, equality, farm ownership, insolence, armed blacks, and mostly the perceived threat black men posed to white women. The Klan and their editor allies also attacked “scalawags” – white Southern Republicans – and “carpetbaggers” – white Northerners come south to befriend freedmen. Many supported Klan terrorism and even the murder of blacks. Assaults were commonplace.  Newspaper-sanctioned riots in Memphis and New Orleans ended with scores of blacks murdered. Editorials also supported economic sanctions against voting blacks and their white allies. A few newspapers adopted new names, aligning themselves officially with the KKK, and some used their pages to issue violent threats.


Early historians supported the Klan, blaming Reconstruction violence on the Union Leagues, organizations seeking black suffrage. In the 1930s scholars began taking a more realistic look at violence.


Officially the war had ended, but in fact it continued. Newspaper responsibility for the crimes is clear. Had Democratic editors acted more responsibly, hundreds of lynchings might not have occurred, the South would not have remained an economic, political, and social backwater for another century, and black progress would have come much sooner. Rarely in American history has the power of the pen been greater; never did it have more tragic consequences.


Hazel Dicken-Garcia & Giovanna Dell’Orto, “Coverage of Three Censorship Episodes Involving The Baltimore Press Journalists’ Discussion of Freedom of the Press in Civil War Newspapers in 1861 and 1862”

This paper, about censorship in one city during the Civil War, is part of a larger study that asks how the First Amendment right of freedom of press and speech has been treated in relation to "hated" ideas at given times in history. What have journalists defined and sought as press and speech freedom rights?  What limits have they said were appropriate?  Have those changed over time?  With special interest in what free expression principles might have been articulated, especially for "hated" ideas, in any such discussion among journalists surrounding the most suppressed newspapers during the Civil War, coverage in eleven newspapers of three censorship episodes in Baltimore, MD--September of 1861 and February and June-July of 1862--were examined as a case study.  It was expected that, because Northern journalists would support the Union government and Southern journalists would support the Confederacy—as functionalist theory suggests--press rights of the opposition would likely be subordinated, ignored,or denied.


Findings show that, while a few journalists from both sections referred to a press freedom that seemed broad and robust, press freedom was hardly treated as universal or broadly applicable.  The six Southern newspapers reflected the strongest disapproval of censorship—almost always about Northern suppression--and, while the Northern journalists gave less attention to censorship issues, journalists of both sections showed little tolerance for ideas they "hated."


Judith Knelman, “Attitudes to Marriage The Subtext of Coverage of the Maybrick Case”

This paper looks at press coverage in the U.S. and in England  of the controversial trial and punishment of  Florence Maybrick, with a view to discovering whether unease about the ongoing renegotiation of women's rights in marriage at the end of the nineteenth century hardened male attitudes against her.


J. Mueller, “Little Bighorn Coverage in Kansas Newspapers: Last Stand for a Partisan Press”

The tremendous news value of the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the magical allure of the name Custer make the topic an excellent vehicle for studying the state of the American press in the mid-1870s. This paper attempts to add to the existing body of knowledge of this era by examining a source that has hardly been studied in depth in the voluminous scholarly and popular writing on Custer and the Little Bighorn: Kansas newspapers. 


Previous research has suggested the American press was moving toward political independence during the 1870s. This study concluded Kansas newspapers split along party lines in their coverage of the battle. Most Kansas newspapers were Republican and tended to attribute Custer’s defeat to his own rashness. Democratic Kansas newspapers tended to blame the Grant administration for stationing troops on Reconstruction duty in the South instead of on the Frontier. The study also compared coverage in the Kansas press to that in the Texas press and found that Kansas newspapers, while partisan, were generally less vehement than their Texas colleagues in their written attacks on both their political opponents and Native Americans. A number of Kansas editorials expressed sympathy for the treatment of Native Americans at the hands of the government and argued that the battle could have been avoided if not for the greed of white miners.


Kate Roberts, “Media Coverage of First Ladies: A Quantitative Analysis of Indexed New York Times Coverage of Wives of U.S. Presidents, 1853 – 1997”

As a portion of a larger study about media coverage of U.S. First Ladies, the purpose of this paper is to discuss how the amount of press coverage of First Ladies has changed across history. The focus of the research was to compare the 19th Century and 20th Century coverage amounts to locate any commonalties between and amongst these time periods. While the research indicated there was more newspaper coverage of each of the First Ladies in the 20th Century, a few in the 19th Century received substantial amounts for the times as well.

Counts were taken from the New York Times Index to obtain the coverage amounts each president‚s wife had received from 1853 (Jane Pierce) through 1997 (Hillary Rodham Clinton).


The primary research question posed for this study was: How much newspaper coverage did each president‚s wife receive? From there 19th-century coverage amounts were compared to those of the 20th Century to discern coverage amount norms for each of these time periods and identify which First Ladies deviated from these norms.


The main hypotheses investigated in this paper are -- a) The amount of coverage that First Ladies receive will increase across the history of the position. b) Of the coverage given a First Lady, most will occur during the years that she is in the White House functioning as the wife of the president while he is president. c) There is a correlation between the number of years that a woman holds the position of First Lady and the amount of press coverage she receives.


In general, the amount of coverage of First Ladies increased across history, and most of the women received the most coverage when they were in the White House. Most cases show a correlation between the number of years a woman held the position of First Lady and the amount of press coverage she received, but there were exceptions.


Les Sillars, “STILL ANOTHER HORROR! A Study of Death in 19th Century Newspapers.”

It is generally accepted that toward the end of the 19th century many newspapers became increasingly sensationalistic to attract readers in a fiercely competitive market. However, this is not the whole story. This study analyzes the attitudes and worldviews of 19th century newsmen toward death. It argues that early in the century some journalists interpreted fatal events in a theological and philosophical context that allowed them to make moral assessments about the deceased and their conduct and to draw from the events lessons about right and wrong. These newsmen did not shy away from gory detail; on the contrary, such details only strengthened the message. This tendency was still apparent in a few of the large independent dailies that arose in the middle of the century, but by 1900 many journalists had largely abandoned the theological framework of their predecessors. Without a context that provided meaning to death, the bloody red “particulars” turned yellow on the page.


Miriam J. Shillingsburg, “Literature and Propaganda: Simms in the Richmond Weeklies”

When the Civil War began, South Carolinian William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870) lost access to his New York publisher.  However, he revised two old manuscripts, placing them in 1863 in Richmond weeklies--the Southern Illustrated News  and the Magnolia Weekly.  Both were up-dated by allusion to military, historical or social events of 1863.  Simms understood the effective use of serialization and was able to maintain his audience's loyalty by using allusions to war events and descriptions of the superior Southern culture.


Benedict Arnold is important for revisiting Simms's theories of dramatic license and the relationship between history and art.  More interested in dramatic effect than in wrenching the history to the polemics of the day, still Simms pointed out that  Southerners have lost "faith in Northern Historians. . . . their Arnolds, and their Putnams were traitors . . . . Their historians are of a piece with their generals."

Paddy McGann is significant for its social commentary on North and South and its well developed Southwestern humor format.  Its theme of Southern Nationhood has three segments:  man's inability to fathom God's will; comparison of North and South; and the assumptions of Southern home life.  Paddy McGann "chronicles the disintegration of the idealized Southern social order," according to critic Dye.


Besides dashing his region's hope for independence, Simms's personal catastrophes during the war were so frequent and so grave that he believed that Fate was chastising him, but he held fast to his faith that God and endurance in public work would make him stronger.  Simms's only new war-time publications were overlooked for more than a century--and one remains unpublished except for its ephemeral periodical appearance.


P. McNeely, “Francis W. Dawson: Dueling with the Code of Honor”

As South Carolina struggled to overcome the destruction caused during and after the Civil War and to regain law and order, Francis W. Dawson traded his Confederate sword for a pen at the News and Courier in Charleston, S.C., where he began a new battle against the state’s most debilitating sins: whiskey, gambling, dueling, lynching and hip-pocket justice.  Dawson, who once wrote that he “could wait a century patiently to have one more blow at them (Yankees) before I die,” did not move seamlessly into his new role as the state’s champion of law and order.  Described as a man who still “had the smell of battle about him,”  Dawson served as a  “best friend” for Henry Rivers Pollard, editor and publisher of The (Richmond, Va.) Examiner, in various duels and fistfights and had challenged others to duels before moving to Charleston, S.C., in 1866.

This paper is a study of the practice of dueling in South Carolina, particularly as it affected editors in the 19th Century, and Dawson’s anti-dueling editorial campaign which culminated with the passage by the General Assembly of a tough anti-dueling law in 1880. As a result, murder charges were brought against a duelist for only the second time in South Carolina’s history. Even though the duelist was found not guilty, Dawson’s efforts moved Pope Leo XIII to confer knighthood on the Charleston editor for his anti-dueling campaign. Dawson is believed to be the only newspaper editor ever so honored. The honor was ironic considering the tragic and bizarre circumstances in 1889 that led to the murder of the unarmed Dawson by a doctor, who was found not guilty by reason of self-defense. This is a discussion of the ultimate and ironic final effect of Dawson’s editorials when the mob who gathered to lynch his killer voluntarily disbanded after they were reminded of Dawson’s anti-lynching editorials.


Richard Stillson, “A Communications Network in Jacksonian Virginia: Newspaper Reporting of the 1831-32 Cholera Pandemic”

This paper is a case study of the reporting of the 1831-32 cholera pandemic by four Virginia newspapers.  The pandemic was a major event of these years in which this disease, almost unknown in Europe and the United States before that time, killed about 100,000 people in the two continents, at times killing 5 to 10 percent of the population of large cities in a few weeks.  This study examines the breadth, quality, timeliness and sources of the cholera coverage, as an example of  the communications network that informed people about the world outside their local communities.  The case study details how these newspapers used the newspaper exchange, letters from correspondents, direct reports from health offices around the country, advise from physicians, and the editors’ own reporting to inform their readers of the approaching catastrophe, and to provide public services to help their communities and individuals prepare for the disease.  These “modern” newspaper functions occurred after the expansion of the Post Office in carrying newspapers but before the communications revolutions of  railroads and the telegraph.  These newspapers were what I have termed the “pre-penny press,” i.e. relatively expensive, small, semi-weekly newspapers that had changed little in style and format since the early National period.


The four sample newspapers are the Richmond Enquirer, the Norfolk American Beacon (the Beacon), the Lynchburg Virginian and the Fredericksburg Virginia Herald (the Herald).  The Enquirer and its editor, Thomas Ritchie, were well known nationally, and the paper was considered an example of the political party press (representing Jackson’s Democracy).  The Beacon was a commercial paper in the only port of the state—Norfolk—and it explicitly eschewed partisan coverage.  The Virginian was also a political paper (representing Whigs) whose editor, Richard Toler, was an important Whig booster and later politician, in the relatively new, small, and expanding town of Lynchburg.  The Herald was the oldest paper of the group in a town that was long settled and losing population. These four towns represent a cross-section of the settled parts of mid-Atlantic states in terms of size, economy, political status, and growth, and their newspapers’ approach to covering the pandemic was similar to other newspapers outside the four major Eastern cities.


S. Bird, “Partisans or Protesters?: A Glimpse at the Danville, Virginia Civil War Press and Its Handling of the Yankee Prisoner Issue”

This research proposed that editors of the south prior to and during the Civil War were more than mere fire eaters, partisans and defenders of state’s rights.  In researching a community of small papers in southern Virginia, this paper uncovered a side to southern editors mostly overlooked in traditional journalism history.  Editors in Danville, Virginia were concerned about the relocation of Union prisoners to their town, the effect of prisons on their town and its citizens, and the fate of 6,000 Yankees who suffered through horrid conditions, hundreds of whom perished and were buried in what is now a national cemetery.  Further, Danville editors were interested in public policy regarding the prisoners and encouraged negotiations between the governments for prisoner exchange.


Thorin Tritter, “Money Matters:  Financial Structure in the Civil War Era and the Dominance of the Big City Daily”

The Civil War profoundly changed American newspapers. On the one hand, shortages of both supplies and workers, with the related increase in costs, forced many newspapers to shrink editions or close up entirely. On the other hand, the war created an unprecedented demand for news and those owners who found a way to continue publishing often realized great financial rewards.  But which newspapers benefited the most and what was the key to their success?  This paper looks particularly at New York City, the center of America's newspaper industry, and argues that the largest dailies, because of the financial structures they developed in the years leading up to the war, were able to dominate the industry like never before.  Significantly, their access to capital during this key period helped make dailies, rather than weekly or monthly papers, the main source for news.

Ed Smith, “The Tragic Figure of General James Longstreet in The Killer Angels: A Story Retold in Chattanooga”

In the Pulitzer Prize winning novel of historical fiction, The Killer Angels (1974), Michael Shaara provides a stirring blend of fact and fiction in which the events and key figures at the Battle of Gettysburg are stunningly brought to life. With the license of the novelist, Shaara the historian views the events through the eyes of the characters and allows the reader to see into the hearts and minds of these real human beings whose actions are recorded in history. I will include many passages from the work to illustrate the powerful portrayals of these characters. While I have attempted to edit and consolidate for brevity, admittedly many are rather lengthy based on my desire that you appreciate the literary skill inherent in these portrayals.

Debra Reddin van Tuyll, “Mary Boykin Chesnut:  Portrait of a Reader”

Wealthy South Carolinian Mary Boykin Chesnut provides an opportunity to examine from a practical standpoint theoretical assertions made by several historians recently regarding the reasons Southern women, particularly those of the planter class, turned to novels and other reading materials during the Civil War.  In this case study, it appears that the model reader suggested by Cathy N. Davidson -- young, unmarried, middle or lower class, from New England -- does not fit Chesnut.  However, models Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Drew Gilpin Faust do accurately describe Mary Boykin Chesnut and her reading habits.  Fox-Genovese and Faust suggest that women turned to novels to help them understand their societies, their places within their societies and to help them prepare to cope with coming challenges.

Paul Ashdown, “Drive-By History: Three Personal (and Sometimes Peculiar) Journeys to the American Civil War”

Shortly after the Civil War, journalists began revisiting sites of battle and reporting on conditions. These reports comprise a curious, hard-to-classify literary genre of war remembrance and reportage. This research compares three contemporary personal narratives about the Civil War: Emory Thomas, Travels to Hallowed Ground (1987) Jerry Ellis, Marching Through Georgia: My Walk with Sherman (1995) Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War (1998)

Encountering history is a central objective in each work.  The writers tell their stories within the narrative structure of journeys. Their journeys are undertaken quickly, leading to impressionistic drive-by history.  Although each book is journalistic in nature, the writers bring different perspectives to their projects.  Horwitz, a journalist, has won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. Thomas is a distinguished historian, and Ellis is a travel writer and adventurer.

The books become journeys of self discovery as well as reports about the modern South.  Wherever the Civil War has left “ghost marks on the landscape,” the war still has a significant impact on culture, ethnicity, politics, regionalism, education, and tourism.  History, in these reports, is something more than a journalistic gloss on contemporary affairs; history matters.  The writers struggle to explain the complex mythology of Southern identity.  School of Journalism

Aleen J. Ratzlaff, “Coverage of Lynching in Selected Mainstream Newspapers, 1892-1894”

Coverage of lynchings became a "staple of journalism" in the 1890s.  Newspapers regularly ran stories of mobs who executed those allegedly guilty crimes, mostly African American men. Ida B. Wells of the Free Speech, a black newspaper in Memphis, investigated mainstream newspaper coverage of lynchings. Through her inquiries, she found that newspaper accounts often conveyed inaccurate or misleading information.
Following her investigation, she launched an anti-lynching campaign and determined to influence U.S. press coverage of lynching.  According to Wells, the lack of debate and condemnation of lynching by white newspapers only supported and encouraged the practice of lynching.  She intended to undermine society's justification of lynching by seeking to alter how the press covered lynching. Though Wells readily reached readers of black newspapers about the horrors of lynching, she initially was barred from conveying this message to the audience of mainstream newspapers. After accepting invitations to lecture in England, she ultimately sparked coverage in white newspapers in the United States of the debate about lynching. While much of that coverage of her antilynching efforts tended to be negative, nonetheless Wells managed to attain a forum in general circulation newspapers.

This study examined lynching articles in selected mainstream newspapers during the initial years of Ida B. Wells's anti-lynching campaign from March 1892 through 1894, after she had returned to the United States from her second lecture tour in England.  Analysis of reported lynching incidents and antilynching efforts in the selected mainstream newspapers revealed a subtle shift in press coverage and public attitudes about mob violence.  Coverage expanded beyond merely reporting lynching incidents to including articles that covered  controversy fueled by Wells's antilynching efforts.


From the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860 to the meeting of the Secession Convention in January 1861, Mississippians participated in a debate over the wisdom of secession.  South Carolina left the Union on December 20, 1860, so the sense of urgency in Mississippi became even more strongly felt.

As the only mass medium of the day, newspapers carried the burden of arguing the merits of secession for readers throughou
t the state.  At least three of the thirty newspapers being published at the time took strong anti-secession positions.  Their writings help historians understand the depth of anti-secession sentiments, whether they were strictly pro-Union or were advocates of delaying secession until all Southern states seceded en masse.  The anti-secessionist newspaper writings also demonstrate a strong degree of courage since they were far outnumbered by pro-secession organs and were frequently attacked for their views.

Though the secessionists prevailed and Mississippi left the Union, the anti-secessionist newspapers proved to be prescient in their forecasts of doom.  They had predicted civil war, and war came.  They had predicted economic hardships for Mississippians, and the hardships came.  They sensed that the secession decision was a defining moment for the state, and indeed it was.     

Michael Smith, “The Jesus Newspaper: How Charles M. Sheldon Integrated a Christian Approach in The Topeka Daily Capital March 13-17, 1900”

The Rev. Dr. Charles M. Sheldon, a Congregationalist minister, wrote In His Steps, a best-selling novel in 1887, and gained international recognition. This novel depicted ordinary people who were inspired to change radically by asking themselves, "What would Jesus do." In the novel, a newspaper editor applied that question to his business and altered his advertising and editorial policies to conform to standards he believed Jesus would practice. In 1900 Sheldon was invited to become that fictional newspaper editor and edit a daily newspaper from March 13 to March 17, 1900. This research examines the way Sheldon's approach to journalism formed a web of meaning for his audience that reflected his worldview. For six issues, Sheldon spread his vision of good, evil, and the path to restore the world to a heaven on earth. His six signed editorials are used to explore Sheldon's vision of the world during a time in America when the social gospel was popularized in melodramatic novels such as In His Steps. While Sheldon's work is often seen as amateurish, his newspaper pioneered some conventions that are commonly used by the modern American press.