The local press and the Nashville Student Movement, 1960
The Nashville Student Movement was a series of lunch counter sit-ins that occurred between February and May of 1960 as part of a wave of sit-ins throughout the South. The first Nashville sit-in occurred on February 14 when 125 students from the city's four predominantly black institutions of higher education conducted sit-ins at three downtown department stores. They ended on May 10 when the stores integrated their lunch counters as a result of a carefully planned agreement between students and merchants.
The Nashville sit-ins are significant in American civil rights history because of their early success, emphasis on nonviolence, sustained and disciplined leadership, and the number of leaders they produced for the civil rights movement in later years.
This study examined how two competing newspapers, the afternoon Nashville Banner and the morning Nashville Tennessean, covered those sit-ins. The method included examination and content analysis of the two newspapers' 130 articles about the sit-ins. It also included interviews with former reporters, black students, and leaders of the sit-ins, as well as use of secondary source materials.
Four main conclusions resulted from the study. First, the Tennessean published longer, more favorable articles about the sit-ins than the Banner. Second, Banner publisher James Stahlman, who opposed the sit-ins, exercised more direct control and influence on his newspaper's coverage than Tennessean publisher Silliman Evans, Jr. As a result, while the Tennessean's aggressively reported the sit-ins, its editorial page failed to support them. Third, students regarded media coverage as very important and took it into consideration in the planning and conduct of the sit-ins. Finally, neither newspaper told the whole story about the sit-ins. Both failed to report on important issues related to the sit-ins, such as the support of the sit-ins from the black adult community and the boycott of downtown stores.
0337: American history
0328: Black history