From Race War to Massacre: A Historical Study of the Depiction of Mass Racial Violence in News Media in the Interwar United States
Groot, Haye de
MetadataShow full item record
The early years of the interwar period in the United States are characterized by some of the most egregious instances of mass racial violence in the nation’s history. A variety of social, economic and political tensions and racial antagonisms conspired to create a surge in the prevalence of racial violence, in particular white-on-black violence. Through looking at the depiction of the events of the Red Summer of 1919 and the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 in contemporary printed news media, this thesis examines the portrayal of both black and white racial identities in regard to the violence that was committed in order to assess what common narratives surrounding racial violence were prevalent during this time period. These narratives typically depict one group as the aggressor or instigator of violence and the other as the victim of violence, and in turn influence the conceptions and ideation of contemporary readers. This thesis ultimately posits that, in contrast to the spectacle-like elements of the depictions of lynchings which sought to emphasise white violence as a tool of oppression, the news depictions of instances of mass racial violence generally emphasized and connected the committing of violence to African Americans, while white Americans were depicted as victims. The disparate attention and coverage that resulted in the formation of this narrative fed into a broader trend of white supremacist thought, which presented and considered the actions and autonomy of African Americans as a threat to the existing racial hierarchy and white superiority enforced by white supremacy.