Public Relations, Racial Injustice, and the 1958 North Carolina Kissing Case Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Hill, Denise
    • Affiliation: Hussman School of Journalism and Media, Mass Communication Graduate Program
  • This dissertation examines how public relations was used by the Committee to Combat Racial Injustice (CCRI), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges, and the United States Information Agency (USIA) in regards to the 1958 kissing case. The kissing case occurred in Monroe, North Carolina when a group of children were playing, including two African American boys, age nine and eight, and a seven-year-old white girl. During the game, the nine-year-old boy and the girl exchanged a kiss. As a result, the police later arrested both boys and charged them with assaulting and molesting the girl. They were sentenced to a reformatory, with possible release for good behavior at age 21. The CCRI launched a public relations campaign to gain the boys’ freedom, and the NAACP implemented public relations tactics on the boys’ behalf. News of the kissing case spread overseas, drawing unwanted international attention to US racial problems at a time when the country was promoting worldwide democracy. In response, Gov. Hodges launched a public relations campaign to defend the actions of North Carolina authorities, and the USIA employed public relations tactics to manage the country’s reputation overseas. This dissertation analyzes the public relations campaigns of the CCRI and Gov. Hodges, focusing on public relations strategies and tactics, as well as public relations outputs and public relations outcomes. This dissertation also analyzes the public relations tactics implemented by the NAACP and USIA. In addition, it examines frames in the public relations material and frames in letters written by members of the public. Using racial formation theory as a foundation, this study also explores how race was reflected in the four groups’ public relations efforts. This dissertation adds to the scholarship on public relations history, illustrating public relations practice of the 1950s and providing an example of how public relations was used for social change, specifically how public relations was used to help African Americans gain civil rights.
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  • In Copyright
  • Friedman, Barbara
  • McDonald, Trevy
  • Boynton, Lois A.
  • Stephens, Ronald
  • Perry, Earnest
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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