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Insults for Sale: The 1957 Memphis Newspaper Boycott
Unformatted Document Text:  Insults For Sale: The 1957 Memphis Newspaper Boycott issue of courtesy titles was just one manifestation of that kind of treatment calling it an “odious custom.” It concluded: The image of the Negro as created by the news coverage in the Commercial Appeal is essentially out of harmony with the truth, and its circulation does grave injury to the morals and well-being of the community. The Memphis of tomorrow must hold decent promise for all Memphians or it can hold little promise for any. The Commercial Appeal has thus failed to carry this message to its readers, and in so failing, it has failed Memphis. 40 By the end of August, the campaign got nasty. The boycott organizers accused The Commercial Appeal of dirty tricks in its attempts to stem the success of the effort. Watson accused the newspaper of spreading rumors that the boycott had ended so blacks would renew their subscriptions. He accused the newspaper of dropping papers at every other house to give the false impression that people were not abiding by the boycott. “These clever little tricks are being used to confuse us, but please be advised that in communities where the paper has been dropped, they are being thrown in spite of a request to discontinue delivering the paper and also at the expense of the paper,” Watson said. Organizers claimed that 60 percent of the blacks in Memphis were adhering to the boycott. If that was true, it would have meant that more than 110,000 people were participating. That 60 percent figure came from organizers who said they had done surveys in the black neighborhoods including Orange Mound, Hyde Park, Douglas and Castalia. Because of that success, Watson said there was no reason for the citizens to end the boycott. He said it would continue “indefinitely,” and by the end of the month no meetings had even been scheduled with Ahlgren. 41 Another mass meeting on August 26 at the Pilgrim’s Rest Baptist Church attracted about 200 people. Walker, shop steward for the a local AFL-CIO chapter, said he stopped subscribing to The Commercial Appeal more than two years previous mostly because he was offended by the daily Hambone cartoon. “We are tired of being called ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ and ‘uncle’ and ‘aunt.’ We are tired of our wives and mothers being called by their first names. If they insist on insulting us, 14

Authors: Hrach, Thomas J..
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                                            Insults For Sale: The 1957 Memphis Newspaper Boycott
issue of courtesy titles was just one manifestation of that kind of treatment calling it an “odious 
custom.” It concluded:
The image of the Negro as created by the news coverage in the Commercial Appeal is 
essentially out of harmony with the truth, and its circulation does grave injury to the 
morals and well-being of the community. The Memphis of tomorrow must hold decent 
promise for all Memphians or it can hold little promise for any. The Commercial Appeal 
has thus failed to carry this message to its readers, and in so failing, it has failed 
Memphis.
By the end of August, the campaign got nasty. The boycott organizers accused The 
Commercial Appeal of dirty tricks in its attempts to stem the success of the effort. Watson 
accused the newspaper of spreading rumors that the boycott had ended so blacks would renew 
their subscriptions. He accused the newspaper of dropping papers at every other house to give the 
false impression that people were not abiding by the boycott. “These clever little tricks are being 
used to confuse us, but please be advised that in communities where the paper has been dropped, 
they are being thrown in spite of a request to discontinue delivering the paper and also at the 
expense of the paper,” Watson said. 
Organizers claimed that 60 percent of the blacks in Memphis were adhering to the 
boycott. If that was true, it would have meant that more than 110,000 people were participating. 
That 60 percent figure came from organizers who said they had done surveys in the black 
neighborhoods including Orange Mound, Hyde Park, Douglas and Castalia. Because of that 
success, Watson said there was no reason for the citizens to end the boycott. He said it would 
continue “indefinitely,” and by the end of the month no meetings had even been scheduled with 
Ahlgren. 
Another mass meeting on August 26 at the Pilgrim’s Rest Baptist Church attracted about 
200 people. Walker, shop steward for the a local AFL-CIO chapter, said he stopped subscribing to 
The Commercial Appeal more than two years previous mostly because he was offended by the 
daily Hambone cartoon. “We are tired of being called ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ and ‘uncle’ and ‘aunt.’ We 
are tired of our wives and mothers being called by their first names. If they insist on insulting us, 
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