Affiliation: Hussman School of Journalism and Media
The Civil Rights Movement, 1947-1968, was a time of great change and resistance for African Americans. The black press played a crucial role as African-American journalists conveyed the hopes and frustrations of their people and rallied citizens to fight for their rights. Although previously understudied, a number of the most powerful writers of the era were black female journalists. This dissertation examines the lives and work of journalists and journalism educators Lucile Bluford, Francis Murphy, and Dorothy Gilliam, based on analysis of their writing and oral histories recorded as part of the Washington Press Club's Oral History Project. Black feminist, alternative, and ethnic media theories are used to understand these women's lives and work. Frances L. Murphy's reign as the owner and editor of the long standing Afro-American newspaper provides a distinct look at black-centered advocacy writing during the Civil Rights era. In contrast, Dorothy Gilliam migrated from the black press to the noted mainstream paper, the Washington Post, and became its first black female editor. Lucile Bluford battled for racial equity in the ranks of journalism education and contested the University of Missouri's segregated admittance policies while pursuing a 30-year career as reporter, editor, and eventual proprietor of the Kansas City Call Although the life story of each woman is unique, the similarities of their focus and approach were striking. All three women fought throughout their lives for racial parity. They fought for school segregation despite their positive experiences with black schooling. Their voices championed voting rights and health care in the black community, and they encouraged their readers to participate in the struggle for equality. They spoke out against police brutality and raised money to fuel worthy causes. All three women spoke and wrote about those who had paved their way, lauded their successful contemporaries, and expressed gratitude for the black men who were their mentors and advocates.