Tag Archives: Charles Moore

Death of a civil rights hero. And my NCAA upsets and Final 4 picks.

Not every civil rights hero gets remembered, 40 years later. So many of them have been forgotten by history, even though their place in 20th century lore deserves to be richly remembered.

Today, I want to talk about Charles Moore, who died last week.

Back in August I wrote a blog post about a remarkable book called “The Race Beat,” by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff. It told the story about how reporters, editors and photographers helped force civil rights onto the front pages and evening newscasts of America, and how the media helped push long-overdue change onto our society.

Charles Moore was the Muhammad Ali of this field, a fantastic, fearless picture-taker who seemed to be at the center of everything that went on. A white Southerner, Moore knew how powerful photos could be in shocking other whites into action and anger, and he had a subtle way of easing himself into tense situations.

Working for Life magazine, he photographed Martin Luther King and other famous leaders of the era, but he also documented despicable acts like the hosing of young black kids in Birmingham.

“In Birmingham when I saw the dogs I don’t think anything appalled me more, and I’ve been to Vietnam,” Mr. Moore told the New York Times in 1999. “I photographed it, and the world rushed in. I realized the power of even one image. . . . What changed was my awareness. I wanted to show how awful, how vulgar, how terrible this whole thing was.”

Looking at just a small sample of his work, which NPR has collected here (there are books featuring Moore’s photos available on Amazon as well), it’s obvious how skilled Moore was.

As a fellow journalist, I’m honored to be in the same profession with someone as history-altering as Charles Moore. Every journalism school in the country should teach students about him. His bravery helped change a nation.

The Washington Post has a terrific obituary here as well.

***OK people, I’m not making you wait until Thursday, because I realize many of you may have brackets to fill out. So herewith, my unofficial, 2010 NCAA Tournament upsets, and Final Four picks. Keep in mind, even though I follow college basketball pretty closely and have studied this bracket and these teams, I NEVER win NCAA Tournament pools.

With that said …

I like Cornell upsetting Temple, a 12 seed over a five. I like Saint Mary’s, not only beating Richmond, but upsetting 2 seed Villanova in the second round. I like Butler (great shooting team, on a terrific roll) not only getting to the Sweet 16, but upsetting Syracuse while they’re there.

I also like San Diego State over Tennessee, and Siena over Purdue.

My Final Four? I can’t not pick Kansas. I tried, but I can’t find another team in that region who could beat them. But there’s nobody good enough. I’m also picking Duke (yes, I’m biased, but they are by far the best team in that region. Though an Elite 8 game against Baylor, in Houston, would be kind of a road game and therefore tricky).

I’m going with Kansas State out of the West region, and West Virginia, in a slight upset, beating Kentucky in the East.

My national title game is one CBS is sure to get HUGE ratings for: Kansas State-West Virginia. And as much as I hate Bob Huggins, the jerk coach of W.Va., I’m going with the Mountaineers to win the championship.

I hope I’m wrong on that one.

(Yeah, that’s another One Shining Moment above. It’s from 1998, when Kentucky won. It’s worth viewing just to see the famous Bryce Drew shot. It’s at 0:45.)

When reporters helped change the world

RaceBeat2

So two things combined this week to inspire me to write this post:

1. Like every other newspaper  journalist I know, I’ve been getting sick and tired of everyone telling us how irrelevant we’re becoming.

We’ve got blogs now, and Twitter, and the Internet, and who has time to wait for a newspaper anyway? goes the cry from the masses. Combine that with the hemorrhaging circulation and advertising being in the toilet, it seems everywhere you look, newspapers are gasping for their last breath.

And,

2. Today, August 28, is the 46th anniversary of the greatest speech of the 20th century, Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” oration in Washington, D.C.

So given those two things, I wanted to write about an amazing book I read last year called “The Race Beat.” It’s by two legendary journalists, Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff, and it tells the previously untold story of the courageous journalists, black and white, who helped force the civil rights movement forward into the American consciousness.

By no means does this exhaustive but entertaining book give the journalists all the credit for the movement, but it absolutely does a service to the brave reporters who were on the front lines.

Reporters who had a conscience, yes, about the unconscionable treatment of blacks in the South, but also reporters who knew a good story and knew enough to follow it all the way through.

Typical of them was John Chancellor of NBC, who, the authors write “when faced with a flying wedge of white toughs coming at him” as he talked to a black woman after the Emmett Till lynching trial, pointed his microphone out and yelled “I don’t care what you’re going to do to me, but the whole world is going to know it.”

These reporters were on the front lines right alongside men like Ralph Abernathy and John Lewis, getting their heads bashed in and hosed down with water just like the rest.

Seriously, without reporters like Claude Sitton of the New York Times (who I had never heard of before this book was published, and now I count as a journalistic hero) and Simeon Booker of Jet Magazine, so much of the awful degradation and punishment of African-Americans might’ve stayed under the radar.

And the photographers of the era were equally important; Charles Moore of Life magazine shot some of the most iconic images that were then splashed across America’s coffee tables.

But by constantly confronting the Bull Connors and George Wallaces, and holding a mirror up to their racism, the reporters in the civil rights movement did my whole profession proud.

Of course, not everyone was on board; newspapers like the Birmingham News and others were still trapped in a time warp, refusing to acknowledge the changes going on.

But a small trickle of brave editors like Harry Ashmore at the Little Rock Gazette begat brave editors, and more and more media finally began to cover the civil rights movement, so that brutal attacks on innocent protesters, like the people crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama in 1965, would be seen and shoved down the throats of Northerners, forcing them to take notice and demand action just as their Southern brothers were doing.

Truly, this book should be essential reading for journalism students, or any students of American history. If you’re a writer like me, turning its pages will once again make you feel proud to be a part of this profession.

Even if you’re not a journalist, I urge you to check out this beautifully-written tale of courageous people , black and white, who by their words and pictures helped change the world for the better.

And now, just because it can never be heard enough …