Modern-day insights from how segregationists sold their message on US television

The effective use of national television broadcasts by white segregationists during the civil rights movement could provide valuable insights into the persistence of white nationalism in the United States today in a project by a PhD student from the Universities of Leicester and Nottingham.

Scott Weightman is the recipient of a 2016 International Placement Scheme Fellowship from the Arts and Humanities Research Council that will allow him access to the internationally renowned Library of Congress and to historic television broadcasts that show how segregationists sought to harness mass media in order to sway public opinion to their advantage.

Scott is a PhD student in the University of Leicester’s School of History and the University of Nottingham’s Department of American and Canadian Studies funded by the AHRC Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership. He is able to take advantage of the cross-university supervision expertise that Midlands3Cities promotes and is co-supervised by Dr George Lewis and Professor Sharon Monteith.

Scott said about his project: “My research uncovers how some segregationists recognised that national TV enabled them to appeal to a wider demographic. Using their national broadcasts, I plan to illustrate the various ways that segregationists modified pro-segregation arguments in order to garner support from Americans outside the South, compared with those pursued by segregationists on local and state television stations in the South.

“Given the current political climate in the US – the rise of Donald Trump and the congruent surge in white nationalism, the persistence of inequality, continued injustice against African Americans, and the skewed reporting of conservative American news outlets – it is vital to understand the history of white supremacy in America."

Fifty UK researchers are being given access to some of America’s most significant libraries and research institutions later this year as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council International Placement Scheme.  Making research trips for up to six months, they will be examining literature, photography, art, and maps, listening to recordings, and having the chance to examine historical artifacts closely, which could help them uncover new aspects of their current research.