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Insults for Sale: The 1957 Memphis Newspaper Boycott
Unformatted Document Text:  Insults For Sale: The 1957 Memphis Newspaper Boycott J.P. Alley, who produced several cartoons that ridiculed Klan members. The award was noteworthy in the history of the Pulitzers because it was the first year there was real competition for the public service prize. The Commercial Appeal had competed and won the award over other newspapers that had uncovered everything from election abuses to Prohibition violations to an international arms limit conference. 5 Other Southern newspapers had been giving full coverage to Klan activities at the time, but it was The Commercial Appeal cartoons that were cited as the most courageous. In one such cartoon, Alley depicted a World War I veteran with one leg amputated pointing to a hooded Klansman labeled “100 percent American” with the veteran saying “I’m unworthy. My religion ain’t right.” The campaign garnered The Commercial Appeal a reputation as the standard bearer of justice in the South. After the Pulitzer, the newspaper continued to be active in persuading other Southern newspapers to denounce the ideas of the Klan. 6 While that history may suggest that the newspaper was progressive on the issues of race, the anti-Klan efforts in the 1920s were motivated more by religion. The Klan at the time was as anti-Catholic as it was anti-black, and The Commercial Appeal editor during the 1920s was an Irish Catholic. 7 The issue of how blacks were written about in The Commercial Appeal surfaced just after the awarding of the Pulitzer Prize. Editor C.P.J. Mooney had a regular dialogue with the leaders of the black community on such issues. In one letter, Mooney agreed at the request of the city’s Inter Racial League, which consisted of the leaders of black churches, to refrain from using the terms “darkey, coon, nigger, negress and the black.” The league praised Mooney and the newspaper for agreeing to eliminate words that would “give offense and thereby create an unkind and unfriendly feeling” in the black community. Black leaders also praised the newspaper for its strong editorial support against lynchings in the South and for being a leader in bringing together racial harmony. 8 4

Authors: Hrach, Thomas J..
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                                            Insults For Sale: The 1957 Memphis Newspaper Boycott
J.P. Alley, who produced several cartoons that ridiculed Klan members. The award was 
noteworthy in the history of the Pulitzers because it was the first year there was real competition 
for the public service prize. The Commercial Appeal had competed and won the award over other 
newspapers that had uncovered everything from election abuses to Prohibition violations to an 
international arms limit conference.
Other Southern newspapers had been giving full coverage to Klan activities at the time, 
but it was The Commercial Appeal cartoons that were cited as the most courageous. In one such 
cartoon, Alley depicted a World War I veteran with one leg amputated pointing to a hooded 
Klansman labeled “100 percent American” with the veteran saying “I’m unworthy. My religion 
ain’t right.” The campaign garnered The Commercial Appeal a reputation as the standard bearer 
of justice in the South. After the Pulitzer, the newspaper continued to be active in persuading 
other Southern newspapers to denounce the ideas of the Klan.
 While that history may suggest 
that the newspaper was progressive on the issues of race, the anti-Klan efforts in the 1920s were 
motivated more by religion. The Klan at the time was as anti-Catholic as it was anti-black, and 
The Commercial Appeal editor during the 1920s was an Irish Catholic.
The issue of how blacks were written about in The Commercial Appeal surfaced just after 
the awarding of the Pulitzer Prize. Editor C.P.J. Mooney had a regular dialogue with the leaders 
of the black community on such issues. In one letter, Mooney agreed at the request of the city’s 
Inter Racial League, which consisted of the leaders of black churches, to refrain from using the 
terms “darkey, coon, nigger, negress and the black.” The league praised Mooney and the 
newspaper for agreeing to eliminate words that would “give offense and thereby create an unkind 
and unfriendly feeling” in the black community. Black leaders also praised the newspaper for its 
strong editorial support against lynchings in the South and for being a leader in bringing together 
racial harmony.

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