The growing potency of the black Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the decline in support for racial theories and the increasing nationalisation of American life, represented a salient threat to the culture of white supremacy in the southern states. In this transformative context, how did segregationists seek to reignite support for segregation and appeal to a broader national audience? What strategies did they pursue, and what impact did they have?
This project traces the development of segregationists’ use of a rapidly developing mass media, including television, radio, newspapers and magazines, and investigates the variety and expediency of their strategies. By examining the text and visual imagery of segregationists’ media campaigns, the study demonstrates how they adapted to changing attitudes, and explores the metamorphosis of southern resistance into the national conservatism of Nixon and Reagan. Such an analysis reveals the emergence of more palatable colour-blind arguments. Some of these approaches were co-opted by Republican strategists from the late-1960s onwards and continue to appear in mainstream US media today.