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Insults for Sale: The 1957 Memphis Newspaper Boycott
Unformatted Document Text:  Insults For Sale: The 1957 Memphis Newspaper Boycott daily life in broken English. 14 The cartoon was started by Alley, the Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, and then later continued to be drawn by his son. The lack of courtesy titles for black women in The Commercial Appeal was an issue that had been brewing since the early 1950s. Three delegations had visited Ahlgren in the previous five years asking that the policy be changed. All proved to be futile, and Ahlgren’s defiant attitude infuriated the citizens. At one such meeting, the newspaper editor told the citizens that if the change were made it would upset the white readers in Mississippi. At another meeting, Ahlgren said it would unwise to use the courtesy titles because there were too many black men and women living together without being married. Ahlgren said that the newspaper would not know whether to use the term “Miss” or “Mrs.” When the black citizens showed Ahlgren surveys from the Tennessee Department of Health that there were a greater percentage of white citizens living together outside of marriage than blacks, Ahlgren still refused to change the policy. 15 The boycott After Wilson’s July 6 column on the issue of courtesy titles, he was visited by a group of black citizens. They wanted to discuss the column and what they could do to get The Commercial Appeal to change its policy. The citizens broached the idea of a boycott and asked Wilson if he would consider converting The Tri-State Defender to a daily newspaper delivered in the mornings. The citizens believed that if there were a morning alternative to The Commercial Appeal it would bode well for a boycott. Wilson was skeptical that a boycott could be organized, but he agreed to discuss it with his newspaper’s parent company. A few days later he was surprised to learn that a group calling itself the Citizens Improvement Committee had formed. Leading the effort as co-chairs were Dr. I.A. Watson, a well-known black dentist, and Frank Kilpatrick, a young man who worked as a chauffeur. They were supported by a local labor leader 7

Authors: Hrach, Thomas J..
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                                            Insults For Sale: The 1957 Memphis Newspaper Boycott
daily life in broken English.
 The cartoon was started by Alley, the Pulitzer Prize winning 
cartoonist, and then later continued to be drawn by his son. 
The lack of courtesy titles for black women in The Commercial Appeal was an issue that 
had been brewing since the early 1950s. Three delegations had visited Ahlgren in the previous 
five years asking that the policy be changed. All proved to be futile, and Ahlgren’s defiant attitude 
infuriated the citizens. At one such meeting, the newspaper editor told the citizens that if the 
change were made it would upset the white readers in Mississippi. At another meeting, Ahlgren 
said it would unwise to use the courtesy titles because there were too many black men and 
women living together without being married. Ahlgren said that the newspaper would not know 
whether to use the term “Miss” or “Mrs.” When the black citizens showed Ahlgren surveys from 
the Tennessee Department of Health that there were a greater percentage of white citizens living 
together outside of marriage than blacks, Ahlgren still refused to change the policy.
The boycott
After Wilson’s July 6 column on the issue of courtesy titles, he was visited by a group of 
black citizens. They wanted to discuss the column and what they could do to get The Commercial 
Appeal to change its policy. The citizens broached the idea of a boycott and asked Wilson if he 
would consider converting The Tri-State Defender to a daily newspaper delivered in the 
mornings. The citizens believed that if there were a morning alternative to The Commercial 
Appeal it would bode well for a boycott. Wilson was skeptical that a boycott could be organized, 
but he agreed to discuss it with his newspaper’s parent company. A few days later he was 
surprised to learn that a group calling itself the Citizens Improvement Committee had formed. 
Leading the effort as co-chairs were Dr. I.A. Watson, a well-known black dentist, and Frank 
Kilpatrick, a young man who worked as a chauffeur. They were supported by a local labor leader 
7


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