A committee on Outrages was appointed, and from it

s report we gather the following facts showing the actual condition of the State. Out of forty-five
counties, murders of colored men during the past year are reported in
seventeen counties, and we are informed these murders are very common.1
This passage was from a black convention held in Macon, Georgia, during the year
1870. That was the period directly following the norths victory in the Civil War, and the
whites contempt for blacks was at an all time high. The southerners had already been
forced to bow down to the superior military of the north, but their already severely
damaged ego could not let the blacks, a race they had always dominated over, gain any
social footing. While the whites used unlawful and inhume tactics to keep white
supremacy alive in the south, the black people were not able to get any support to further
themselves. There was literally no chance to for the blacks to forcefully gain ground
against the whites, so the only way their situation could change was from white
sympathy. However, the media of the time, primarily the printed press, had no intention
of helping the blacks move up socially. Instead, the media in the south, and specifically
in Atlanta, used their power to suppress the blacks by printing suggestive books, articles,
and pictures justifying white supremacy; that media reached into the minds of the white
Atlanta residents and contributed to, directly and indirectly, the many injustices and
atrocities that occurred in that city.

During the period of the 1870s through the 1890s there was an overwhelming
majority of whites who truly believed they were superior to blacks, but not all of them
were filled with the anger and hate needed to implement some of the forceful tactics used
for intimidation. The reason behind this was the fact that before, and even during the
war, many slave owners had developed friendly relationships with some of their slaves.
Usually, these slaves were the most faithful ones who served the slaveowners family for
years and, more often than not, were treated better than the other slaves. This resulted in
some southerners having uneasy feelings about some of the more severe violence against
blacks. One Atlanta plantation owner displayed his friendship by writing about the
recent death of an ex-slave- I am proud to record the fact that he was liked and
befriended by all his true southern white acquaintances, and his death lamented by all of
them.2Because these kinds of relationships were not uncommon between whites and
blacks, there was a need to establish a relentless contempt for the newly freed blacks if
the whites were to continue to control their home town. This is not to say that one
person, or a group of people, were specifically plotting ways in which to raise hatred for
blacks, rather it was more of an underlying natural occurrence that continued to develop
as more negative articles and books were printed. In any case, there was sense of a new,
and more intense, dehumanization of the black race.
One method of dehumanization that turned out to be rather effective during the post
Civil War period was scientific evidence that proved the black man was
physiologically inferior to the white man. Again, this is not to say that all of these
findings were part of a larger scheme to get white people to think less of blacks, but they
were certainly strongly suggesting that a white man should not consider a black man to
be an equal, and in some cases, not even a man. To study the Negro past, one
researcher wrote, was not unlike an investigation into the natural history of a pig or
horse…3No matter how absurd these findings might seem at present time, books
containing these kinds of statements were rarely, if ever, questioned. A passage from a
book with this kind of information reads as follows:
The negro skull was extremely thick and is often used for butting, as is
the custom with rams. Flattened at the top, it was well suited for carrying
burdens. His clavicle was larger in proportion to the humerus and
therefore approached the structural organization of the ape. His scapula
was shorter and broader, his pelvis inclined like the anthropoid. The negro
brain was darker and its density and texture…..inferior.4
Literature describing the physical drawbacks of blacks also included their social
inferiorities as well. One book spoke of the lack of suicides among the black race as due
to psychological unorganization and social underachievements. The readers of this
literature took the information to heart and sometimes added their own theories. It has
taken many centuries, wrote one southern belle, to bring the Anglo-Saxon to his
present imperfect ethical development . It will not take less time to perfect the Negro,-
and whoever reckons for him without considering the thickness of his jaw, the relative
smoothness of his brain and the amount of grey matter at his nerve centers will be
disappointed.5 Often accompanying the claims of black inferiority was very powerful
and demeaning imagery, as demonstrated below.
Comparison of the black female to a female gorilla ( from Preadamites, 1888)
Biracial people in Atlanta, which were usually the product of white men who raped
slave women, were subjected to the same kind of treatment as those who did not have
any white blood. These people were referred to, in a derogatory way, as mulattos,
hybrids, or the monstrous sounding name mongrel. Though the obvious reason for
calling someone a derogatory name is to degrade them, the psychological effects were
much harsher. By associating a group of people with a name like mongrel, it took away
from their humanity. Lack of humanity paved the way for justifying inhumane treatment.
Though the biracials were treated as bad as the pure blacks, it was accepted that they
were …more intelligent than blacks, and less so than whites.6But while white blood
did not improve or damage the black blood in any way, it was a common belief that the
white race …is deteriorated by every drop of black blood infiltrated into it- just as surely
as the blood of the greyhound or pointer is polluted by that of a cur.7 Once again, these
kinds of beliefs were collected and settled in the back of the minds of many white people,
and would set the stage for many of the atrocities that occurred in Atlanta, and elsewhere,
for years to come.

Although it was accepted by many that the physiological setbacks of the black man
rendered him incapable of advancing in social status, their was an underlying, and
contradictory, fear that education could pose a threat to white supremacy in the south.
Education could lead to a black man having a profitable business, or a black man holding
public office. In addition, it would have been extremely difficult to find a white
southerner whose ego would not have been excessively damaged by a black person who
sounded more intelligent. That fear, which the media perpetuated, was more likely on
the mind of the average white person rather than the threat of a black man holding office
or running a business; the probability of that fear was greater because the white media
had always portrayed the black race as stupid and unable to made intelligent decisions for
themselves. During this period in Atlanta, whites were extremely weary of educated
blacks who tried to escape the stereotype of being stupid. As the Atlanta Constitution
newspaper printed in January of 1890, regarding the recent lynchings of black men,
Snobbery has its ambitions, and as nearly every negro that is turned out of a school
never considers himself respectable until he tries to outwit a white man, it is a wonder
there have not been more collisions.8 Statements such as that clearly demonstrate the
white disapproval of black education, and newspapers made no attempt to hide it.
What made advancement for blacks even more difficult in the south was the fact that
the few white people who wanted to help the blacks stood little chance of accomplishing
anything. The sympathizer to the black race was harassed and was often regarded as
worse than a member of the black race itself, because they were traitors. And, in turn,
those who were sympathetic to the so called traitors were also subjected to scrutiny.
These assaults were made possible by the lack of media attention of lawless white
supremacist actions; it was clear that newspapers in Atlanta supported aggressions
against those who befriended blacks.
One man, by the name of Charles Stearns, was a northerner and black sympathizer
who moved to Atlanta right after the Civil War. In 1871 he was elected to the office of
Judge of Ordinary. That was an extremely powerful position; he who held this office
had almost unlimited power over all county matters. But his opposition, who were
determined to prevent him form taking that office, only saw him as a …damned Yankee,
elected by niggers.9In fact, the first day he showed up at the courthouse for duty, he
was met by a huge mob of angry whites. The mob taunted Stearns all the way up the
courthouse steps, when one man summed the contempt the whites had for him: The
white people of the county are determined you shall not, at all hazards, (hold the office of
Judge of Ordinary) because you were elected by niggers; and we will be damned if the
niggers are going to rule over us. We built this courthouse with our own money, and we
are going to occupy it.10
The intimidation was not enough to hold back Stearns, who was equally determined to
hold the office. But once he walked inside, he was the victim of continuous and more
violent threats, at the same time people threw various objects and spat upon him. Once
Stearns began to speak, he was rushed by the angry mob that then picked him up and
threw him down the stairs of the courthouse. One member of the angry mob walked up
to Stearns, who was at this point in pain and on the ground, and threatened, (If you dont
leave now) I will beat into such a jelly, that your own wife will not know you!11 The
sheriff of Atlanta, knowing what was going to happen on that day, did not show up at the
courthouse and later claimed he …would have been killed if he tried to protect
(Stearns).12 This incident left Stearns no choice, and he was forced to resign from
There was no was no evidence of this incident in either of the two major Atlanta
newspapers. And such incidents would be tough to find in a major newspaper because
these types of incidents, concerning white northerners, were much different than printed
stories concerning blacks. Situations similar to this one, involving such blatant
disrespect for the attempted reconstruction, and especially concerning violence to a
respected white northerner, might have drawn unwanted attention to those kinds of
incidents and would have therefore, make them more difficult to take place. However,
the newspapers were not silent about their white supremacist beliefs by any means. The
way the newspapers went about expressing their racist opinions was often outright, but
occasionally cleverly disguised in various forms.

Whenever there was a black man who publicly expressed his belief that the social
mobility of blacks would not improve by making an enemy of the white man, the article
was printed and his words were praised. This was the kind of story the newspapers
sought to print because it spoke against the advancement of blacks from a black person.
One such article was printed in an Atlanta newspaper in rather large print and contained
This nego is not trying to make other negroes believe the real road to
happiness consists in pushing themselves forward into places where
they are not wanted. Instead of this, however, he gives his race advice
that is really worthy of the attention of negroes, albeit the great majority
of them may not be in condition to hear it. He advises the negro to be self-
respecting, and thereby gain the respect of others. This is the secret of
the of sort of success the negroes seem to be pining for. ……Thus far, with
the negros, everything seems to run in the direction of politics, and their
education seems to tend toward making themselves obnoxious. This is not
the way to get on. ….A (touch of self-respect) would save them from many
a blunder, and allay a great deal of prejudice that is more personal than real.13
These types of articles were not uncommon in Atlanta. It was a great strategy to
justify the suppression of blacks by making it sound like even the blacks wanted to
remain socially immobile. An article printed, not even a week later, in the same
newspaper was very similar in content; one black reverend had this to say:
The negro is an imitative creature, and this is a sign of much hope.

The Indian always does the opposite from what he sees the white
man do. Hence he had gone down. It is just the reverse for the
negro. ….Rome imitated Greece; England imitated Rome; America
imitated England. It is a help every time, and the negro is right in
following in the white mans steps.14
Newspapers in Atlanta also played an important role in the portrayal of blacks as
criminals and devious members of society. The one sided articles often led readers to be
paranoid of black people who lived near them. A prime example of that kind of negative
portrayal was in the case of a suitcase that had been stolen from a house while the
occupants were out for the evening. In the article it clearly states that the …trunk was
taken by unknown parties from the house.15 In other words, nobody had been seen
committing that crime. However, the police immediately went to the home of two black
men living about a mile away. After searching the two men, they were charged with the
crime. That was based entirely on the fact that the suitcase contained money and the
black men were found with money …appearing to match the money from the trunk.16
As in many cases involving blacks and criminal activities, that case did not end with
an arrest. As the newspaper had the readers believe, the two police officers approached
the black men to arrest them when one of the black men pulled a knife. In order to
defend himself, one of the officers shot the man holding the knife in the heart, killing
him instantly. The trunk was later found in a well near the home from where it was
The way that article was written glorified the policeman and made him appear as a
sort of hero to the community which was being overrun with cop-killing blacks
committing crimes. In another article appearing in the Atlanta Journal, the title read,
He May Be Lynched, And If He Was, No Tears Would Be Shed Over The Lynching.17
That story was about a black man being accused of a rape that he claims he is innocent
of. But even before trial had begun, the paper had already reached a verdict of guilty-
and it was punishable by death. Anyone who read that demonizing, one sided article was
also likely to assume the man accused was guilty; they were also likely to become
paranoid about the black mans sexual desires for white women.
The Atlanta newspapers did not just write about the supposed problems the blacks
caused, they also printed what they thought could be solutions. Those solutions varied
from paper to paper, but certainly none of them suggested the white man to embrace the
black cause. The Atlanta Constitution ran an article written by a man who had the idea
of shipping 8,000,000 blacks back to the Congo Republic of Africa. I look forward,
said the contributing writer, to the establishment of a free republic government in the
Congo region by the influence of American negroes, who would thus be redeemers and
generators of their fatherland.18 That article was printed in 1890, twenty-five years
after the ending of the Civil War. The animosity towards blacks had grown to the extent
of people actually proposing to eliminate them from the entire country.
By the end of the 1890s tension was still extremely high between blacks and whites,
and the contempt continued to fester. The harder blacks worked to educate themselves
and get ahead, the harder whites worked to prevent it. The media at this time may have
been limited to newspapers, books, flyers and various periodicals, but they still played an
important role in forming the opinions of white southerners. One could argue that those
feelings had to have existed in order to print them, and that is somewhat true. However,
what started out as white people simply believing that blacks were inferior turned into a
hatred for black people. There was a snowball effect on this hatred; with every article
written, every book published, every picture printed, the prejudice and intolerance had
become more justified.
Because the media in Atlanta during the 1870s-1890s was so limited, their influence
was probably underestimated. Since the newspapers did not actually go out and lynch a
black man, they could have been mistaken for being innocent of contributing to the
inhumane treatment of blacks. But before acts of violence were committed, one must
have held certain ideas that developed and grew from the influence from other sources.
This is not to say that media was totally responsible for racist beliefs, but the media did
contribute to those beliefs by condoning them. The more a person read that a black man
deserved to be hung for stealing, the more that person believed it. In addition, people
tended to believe everything that was presented by the press. Because there were several
thousand people being fed the same information, there was a collective community mind
that believed what the media printed was true and right. In the city of Atlanta, racism
against blacks was promoted by the media, and after considerable anti-black articles were
printed, it is no wonder so many whites in that city could relate to this poem published in
why dont the negro keep his place,
not force himself upon our race?
It matters not what men may say,
They are inferior in every way.

Inferior to the meanest white,
Are always hateful in our site.

We never will accept this race,
Twould bring our children to disgrace.

Im free to own what I cant suppress,
That hatred harbored in our breast.

Ive turned and twisted every plan,
Yet I cant regard him as a man.

His offspring we cant recognize,
These negro children we despise.

To keep this class just where we ought,
In separate schools they must be taught.

They are very good to scrub and sew,
And do our kitchen work below.

To raise him up- we never will,
But keep them down as negroes still.

Even though his skin be bright and clear,
No kinks nor curls mixed in his hair,
That hatred comes, and come it will-
which makes me hate the negro still.

Hes well enough among his race,
And this alone his proper place.

Well not regard his fame or skill,
To us hes just a negro still.19