In 1963, local media didn't send reporters to historic March on Washington

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:39 a.m. CDT, Thursday, August 29, 2013
This microfilm scan shows the Columbia Missourian's Aug, 28, 1963, coverage of the March on Washington.

COLUMBIA — The Columbia radio station KFRU/1400 AM covered the March on Washington in 1963, using information from national newscasts and wire services.

Eric Engberg, a 1963 MU graduate and former faculty member who was news director at KFRU at the time, said Monday that sending someone to Washington to cover the Aug. 28, 1963, rally never would have occurred to the newsroom staff.

"Those of us in the working press knew that it would be a big story in Washington," Engberg said. "After it happened, we certainly knew it was going to be a big story, but I don't think anybody was aware of the historical significance that it had because there were so many other bad things happening."

He said there were stories of violence coming out of the South in the time leading up to the march, such as bombings and murders, which drew attention away from the event.

The March on Washington took place just nine years after the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education, a decision that galvanized the civil rights movement and was a big step toward ending Jim Crow laws, said Keona K. Ervin, an assistant professor of African-American history at MU.

Jim Crow laws had segregated the country, affecting many aspects of society, such as the job market and public transportation, Ervin said.

The day of the march, the Missourian and the Columbia Daily Tribune both printed Associated Press articles about the event on their front pages.

The article that ran in the Missourian used the word "Negroes" in describing African-American people and "white sympathizers" for the white protesters.

The language the news media used at the time to describe race was typical of the time period and was generally understood, Ervin said.

"'Negro' was the accepted language used to describe African-Americans," Ervin said. "Civil-rights activists would use that language themselves. There's an interesting history to the self-naming that goes on in African-American communities across the 20th century especially. But 'Negro,' especially within the context of the civil-rights movement, was the accepted language."

Supervising editor is Margaux Henquinet.

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Ellis Smith August 28, 2013 | 8:52 a.m.

Today the Missourian doesn't routinely report* major events at UMKC, UMSL and MS&T, so why would they have directly covered an event in far away Washington, D.C. way back in 1963?

Last time we checked, which was very recently, MU, UMKC, UMSL and MS&T are SUPPOSED to be parts of the same so-called "system." Has that now changed?

*- Such coverage as occasionally appears in the Missourian seems to be periodic AP releases.

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