CRM, the Daily Universe, and the 1950s–Part One

By March 19, 2009

On 25 May 1954, the Daily Universe published its first article about the passing of Brown v. Board of Education, a monumental decision ordering the desegregation of the nation’s schools, preventing Southerners from depending upon previous ideas of “separate but equal” that justified segregation. [1] Although the United States governmental radio station “The Voice of America” broadcast news of the ruling to Eastern Europe in less than an hour, the Daily Universe took about a week to report news of the Supreme Court decision. [2] In an article entitled “Banners Hide Acceptance of New Edict,” student reporter Arthur Hardy reported that while the media portrayed Southern refusal of the ruling, the majority of the men and women who lived in the South were actually for desegregation:

“‘Its a good thing. Now we can practice the true Christian principle of brotherhood.’ Oddly enough, these words were spoken by a southerner about the Supreme Court’s decision declaring segregation in the public schools to be unconstitutional. As usual, the mature, well-reasoned words were lost in the headlines. Newspapers and radio chose instead to blare forth the idle soundings of Georgia’s governor…Words similar to ‘The people of Georgia will never accept this federal troops could not enforce this political ruling’ were head lined [sic] giving the false impression that such was the reaction of most citizens of segregated states.”[3]

In reality, few Americans at this time supported integration, and even ten years after Hardy’s article, a large portion of the US population still was not sure about the need for complete integration. Countless editorials, letters to the editor, and news articles over the next eleven years proved that the exact opposite of Harding’s argument was true, but his response shows a reluctance or inability on the part of Hardy and the Daily Universe staff to recognize the underlying national attitudes that existed at the initial ruling of the Supreme Court.

The year after Hardy’s reporting on Brown v. Board, the Daily Universe began to include brief news clippings within the newspaper. Because of this, students learned about news from an outside news source (news articles were typically from the United Press International) rather than from a BYU student reporter.[4] Considering the fact that only one-fifth of the student population at the time read another newspaper besides the Daily Universe, it is significant to note that the majority of students learned about national and international news from the campus newspaper.[5] It is also of significance that as the movement progressed, the newspaper began to include longer news articles that discussed national and international news in more depth.

As I referred to in my previous post, the first BYU-written editorial to explicitly discuss integration was published on 5 December 1958. Since September 1957, there had been frequent news reports in the Daily Universe about the integration of Little Rock’s Central High School and the subsequent interactions between Arkansas’s governor Orval Faubus and the federal government. The situation, which reflected the heightened governmental attention of the civil rights movement that resulted in the placement of 10,000 federal troops in Arkansas, also shows the increasing national coverage for the emerging civil rights movement.[6] The editorial, entitled “Students Tired of Integration Issue?”, analyzed Governor Faubus and the dedication of his and the South “to stand by their ‘principles’” that caused them to treat “contemptuously the rights of a minority race”.[7] After rhetorically asking how to deal with a stubbornly immovable man like Faubus, the editorial finished by prompting students to “ask [them]selves if [they] are unwittingly contributing to racial prejudice.”[8] This article reflects the growing national significance of what was happening in Little Rock, and also that students at BYU recognized themselves as having a potential influence over the racial attitudes within America.

Several students wrote into the letter to the editor section of the newspaper, called the “Safety Valve,” in response to this editorial. Their responses show that BYU students did not have one main idea or attitude towards the civil rights movement, but instead that different students had different concepts of the movement. The first students who responded to the editorial ascribed importance to states’ rights and then used that quote from Elder Peterson.[9] On 12 December, several students from the South also proclaimed the need for segregation to continue in the South, stating that the South had obviously chosen to keep segregation, and that segregation was not a concern in the West because of the small number of African Americans who lived in Utah.[10] Another letter, written on 5 January, supported the claim that only those who had lived in the South should have the ability to discuss integration and the unique racial conditions of the South.[11] As we see from these letters, many students at BYU who were from the South felt that integration struck at the core of the issue of states rights versus governmental involvement.

While some students strongly supported segregation, other students spoke out against it. Using a combination of constitutional law, interpretations of sovereignty, and church doctrine, one student declared that the current racial strife was rooted in “the miscarriage of the meddlings of the post-Civil War Republican Congress”.[12] This was the same student that said that segregation was only appropriate for celestial marriage and the Priesthood. Another student, who proudly stated in his postscript that “[m]y pedigree is as blue as that of the white supremist [sic]”, stated the need for all Southerners to “wake up to” and address the problem of segregation. He also rebutted the letter from 12 December, stating that segregation was not truly decided upon or supported by the people because “thousands of negroes [were] kept from the polls by fear and unfair practices.”[13] The reactions of BYU students to the editorial on integration show that while BYU students had very different views and opinions of the civil rights movement and specifically about segregation, the frequent access that students had to news about desegregation allowed these students to develop their own opinions on integration.

In the next post, we will explore more general discussions towards race in the Daily Universe during the 1950s that do not explicitly discuss the civil rights movement, but nevertheless allow us to know about racial attitudes of the time.

[1] Manning Marable, Race, Reform, and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction and Beyond in Black America, 1945-2006 (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007), 40-41.

[2] Mark Newman, The Civil Rights Movement (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2004), 50.

[3] Arthur Hardy, “Banners Hide Acceptance of New Edict,” Daily Universe, 25 May 1954.

[4] For our purposes, we will consider “news articles” to refer to external news sources, and not articles written by students. This is simply a manner of differentiation in order to understand the types of articles appearing in the paper.

[5] Daily Universe, “We Go Pogo,” September 22, 1955.

[6] Marable, 40-41.

[7] Daily Universe, “Students Tired of Integration Issue?”, December 5, 1958.

[8] Daily Universe, “College Integration Poll Reveals Disinterest,” December 12, 1958; Daily Universe, “Students Tired of Integration Issue?”, December 5, 1958.

[9] Lila LeVar and Lurleen LeVar, letter to the editor, Daily Universe, December 10, 1958.

[10] Sharon Marks et al, letter to the editor, Daily Universe, December 12, 1958.

[11] George Hallock, letter to the editor, Daily Universe, January 5, 1959.

[12] Peter Crnkovic, letter to the editor, Daily Universe, January 5, 1959.

[13] Chuck Johnson, letter to the editor, Daily Universe, January 5, 1959.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


Comments

  1. Fabulous, Ardis; this is great stuff.

    Comment by Ben — March 19, 2009 @ 1:45 am

  2. Thanks again, Ardis…this is fascinating.

    Comment by Anne (UK) — March 19, 2009 @ 7:10 am

  3. Great stuff, Ardis. Did you find any letters from Southern Mormons who supported integration?

    Comment by David G. — March 19, 2009 @ 9:05 am

  4. Very interesting. I’m anxious to read the next post now.

    Comment by Christopher — March 19, 2009 @ 9:52 am

  5. It still feels weird congratulating another Ardis on a Mormon history post. But, well done, Ardis.

    I look forward to the next one.

    Comment by Hunter — March 19, 2009 @ 11:13 am

  6. David G., Chuck Johnson was a student from the South who did speak out against segregation during this series of letters to the editor. There weren’t a lot in this particular instance who explicitly stated they were from the South and supportive of integration, but that doesn’t mean that all students from the South at BYU supported segregation. Thanks for your question!

    Comment by Ardis — March 19, 2009 @ 11:32 pm

  7. Ardis, did faculty members ever voice their opinions regarding the CRM in the DU?

    Comment by Christopher — March 20, 2009 @ 12:24 pm

  8. A promise of good things to come, Ardis. By the way, if you know of any Daily Universe coverage of the March, 1960 civil rights demonstrations in downtown Salt Lake City, I hope you’ll mention that in a post or a comment — I’m very interested in those protests.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — March 20, 2009 @ 10:53 pm


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