Awash in the March on Washington

Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington (Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress)

"In the opening line of his 'I Have a Dream' speech, delivered at the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. predicted that the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom would 'go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation,' " Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard scholar and editor-in-chief of The Root, wrote this month.

"Fifty years on, we know he was prophetic.

"But at the time, it was a bold statement, for there had been many examples in our country's history when Americans had screwed their courage and protested for a noble cause."


Gates went on, "But because of what radio and television were able to transmit in late August 1963, the March on Washington was witnessed by far more Americans than any previous demonstration, and from the deep vaults of American history, now flung open with a few taps on a touchscreen, images and sounds from that day are easily sampled as part of the stream of signal events that define our nation's memory. . . . ."

The media will be present again over the next two weeks as Washington is awash in the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In fact, the stage-setters began at least a month ago, in print, on the Web and in broadcast. Gates' piece, posted Aug. 14, was announcing two weeks of articles "highlighting the facts, faces, figures and far-reaching effects of 'that greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.' "


On Monday, Black Entertainment Television, which has always emphasized that "Entertainment" is its middle name, announced that it would cover Saturday's commemoration live.

The cable news networks already had planned special coverage, as Alex Weprin reported Saturday for TVNewser.


C-SPAN plans another weekend of march-related programming on its C-SPAN3 American History channel, including a roundtable filmed by the U.S. Information Agency on August 28, 1963, with march participants Sidney Poitier, Charlton Heston, Marlon Brando and Harry Belafonte and a roundtable that includes this columnist (3:30 p.m. Sunday). More here

The African-American Public Radio Consortium had offered public and community radio stations "We March On" — "a set of 23 vignettes (each 1:42 in length) in which some of the heroes who stood with Dr. King on that historic day reflect on the profundity of the event, and what it meant to be there."


On Aug. 28 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST, The Root plans a digital forum called the "#MarchON Twitter." The sessions are to feature experts, activists and celebrities leading conversations on such issues as criminal justice, education and immigration in a series of hour-long segments leading up to President Obama's speech at the Lincoln Memorial. They will use the hashtag #MarchON.

Time magazine, which still has no black correspondents, nevertheless published a special commemorative issue on the march.


Even the Saturday Evening Post reached into its archives for a series it calls "The Long March on Washington," with references that start in the 1940s.

To some reporters, the commemorations amount to a nostalgia trip

"For the next 10 days Washington will be transported a half-century back in time to relive one of the most powerful and defining moments in American history," Mike Magner wrote in the National Journal.


For others, including Obama, the here and now commands attention. "As the president addresses a crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, current and former advisers say, he will want to impress upon listeners how progress toward racial equality will require progress toward economic equality," Zachary A. Goldfarb wrote Saturday in the Washington Post.

Gates is in the latter camp. "We are living through challenging times with a mix of pride at what we have accomplished and despair at the facts that tell us that despite the formal smashing of 'the manacles of segregation,' as King called them, too many black men, women and children 50 years on from the march still dwell 'on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity,' while others are 'still languishing in the corners of American society,' feeling like 'exile[s] in [their] own land,' " he continued in his essay.


"As of last month, the unemployment rate among African Americans was more than 13 percent and almost double the national average.

"The same is true of the poverty rate: More than 27 percent of black Americans dwell in poverty, compared with the nation's average, 15.


"The poverty rate among African-American children is especially alarming, as it was in 1968, the year of the King assassination — both at more than 30 percent.

"The black male prison population remains the highest of any demographic — 38 percent of all inmates, state and federal — despite the fact that blacks make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population.


"These are hard numbers, numbers that the March on Washington explicitly sought to change, along with eradicating de jure segregation, and while we have come so far, and crossed many more rivers since then, we have so much more work to do to realize the 'dream' that King so beautifully and so memorably articulated at the culmination of his speech. . . ."

Danielle Cadet and Jermaine Spradley, HuffPost BlackVoices: 50 Years After The March On Washington, Is Black America Free? (July 28)


James E. Causey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The March on Washington should ignite new leaders

James E. Causey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Seeds of nonviolence need to be planted in the home (Aug. 10)


George Curry, National Newspaper Publishers Association: Focus on Poverty, Not the Middle Class (Aug. 7)

George Curry, National Newspaper Publishers Association: Jobs Still a Key Issue 50 Years After Historic D.C. March


Merlene Davis, Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader: Bus trip planned to celebrate 50th anniversary of March on Washington (Aug. 7)

Drew DeSilver, Pew Research Center: Tepid U.S. jobs data conceal modest momentum for blacks and Hispanics (Aug. 2)


Sam Fulwood III, Center for American Progress: Remembering the Many Voices at the March on Washington (July 23)

Emil Guillermo, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington: Why Asian Americans should be there marching, dreaming


William Jones with Gwen Ifill, "PBS NewsHour": 50 Years Ago, March on Washington Had More Radical Roots Than Remembered Today

Philip Klinkner, USA Today: King's speech impact less than remembered: Column

Jeff Nilsson, Saturday Evening Post: 'It's Our Country, Too' (First of a series from Saturday Evening Post archives)


Gene Policinski, Carole Blair, Frank Bond, Richard Prince, Catherine Squires, Kirt Wilson: Media, Memory, and the March on Washington: How We Teach and What We Learn about the Speech that Changed America (video) (July 29)

Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star: Let's remember the March on Washington for what it was (Aug. 12)


Bob Ray Sanders, Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas: 50 years after March on Washington, voting rights not secure for all (July 30)

Dru Sefton, PBS to mark anniversary of historic civil rights March on Washington (July 17)


Michelle Singletary, Washington Post: King's unfinished work

Jamal Watson, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education: 50 Years Later, Focus on Jobs Minimized in Memories of March on Washington (July 29)


Gary Younge, the Guardian, Britain: Martin Luther King: the story behind his 'I have a dream' speech (Aug. 9) 

NPR CEO Gary Knell Leaving for National Geographic

When Gary E. Knell was appointed in 2011 to become the new CEO of NPR, he said, "I made diversity a key part of my pitch to the NPR board" to get the job and "this is a big part of my agenda."


On Monday, Knell stunned NPR employees by announcing that he's leaving the organization after less than two years to become president and CEO at the National Geographic Society.

Diversity was not mentioned in the reports of his impending departure, even at NPR, although Knell further diversified its senior leadership by appointing Emma Carrasco as chief marketing officer, making her the network's highest-ranking Latino. Moreover, Knell spoke about diversity wherever he went, and launched a "major journalism initiative to deepen coverage of race, ethnicity and culture" with a $1.5 million, two-year grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. " The project became known as "Code Switch."


Announcing the grant at the Unity '12 convention in Las Vegas, Knell said he was "delivering on our promise for NPR to look and sound like America." On Monday, the Code Switch team aired a piece by Hansi Lo Wang on the bond between Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese-American, and Malcolm X, the black nationalist hero. Laurel Morales delivered a story about items sacred to the Hopi tribe.

Michele Norris, an African American NPR host, was one of Knell's fans. "I hate to have to speak of Gary Knell in the past tense at NPR," Norris said by email. "He was a wonderful leader for the organization. He had vision and energy. He was devoted to diversity and was unafraid to explore new ground. He had a great sense of humor and strong sense of how radio can evolve to meet audiences where they are. National Geographic is fortunate to have him. Very sad to see him go."


Yet even Knell would admit that the job of diversity at NPR remains a work in progress. When Eric Deggans, media critic for the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, arrives as NPR television critic, the number of African American male on-air voices will rise only to three.

And although Knell said he wanted to reach even low-income ears, NPR has a long way to go to become a working-class favorite.


Still, there is something to be said for creating an atmosphere for change.

"Knell came to NPR from Sesame Workshop in December 2011 the wake of considerable upheaval," as Mark Memmott wrote Monday on his NPR blog. "Vivian Schiller had resigned as CEO and president earlier that year, after two high-profile controversies — the mishandled firing of NPR analyst Juan Williams and video of a NPR fundraising executive slamming conservatives. NPR's board of directors concluded that she could no longer effectively lead the organization.


"Once Knell arrived on the scene, NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik says, the turmoil seemed to ease as the sense grew that NPR was being 'led by grownups who were working constructively in a shared direction' — even as the organization continued to face significant budget pressures. . . ."

[NPR spokeswoman Anna Christopher Bruss said by email Tuesday, "Gary feels very strongly about the work we've done in recent years to strengthen diversity — both in terms of content and journalism, and inside the organization. NPR has expanded its commitment to diversity and promoted this work throughout the public radio system. Diversity isn't something that's just talked about; it's part of the fabric of NPR. We can point to the work of (to name a few): Tell Me More; Michele Norris and the Race Card Project, now in partnership with NPR; and Code Switch, leading conversations about race, ethnicity and culture."]


Egyptian Military Lashes Out at Foreign News Media

"Amid an international outcry over a bloody crackdown, the new government installed by Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi is putting concerted pressure on the only remaining news outlets in Egypt covering criticism of the violence: the foreign news media," David D. Kirkpatrick reported Sunday for the New York Times.


"The military had already shut down all the Egyptian television networks that supported President Mohamed Morsi on the night the general ousted him. Now, in the last four days, the new authorities have raided and shut down the offices of the pan-Arab Al Jazeera network, taken steps to deny its Egyptian license and, on Sunday, arrested its correspondent Abdullah El-Shamy on charges of inciting murder and sectarian violence. Al Jazeera, based in Qatar, was the only big Arabic-language network considered sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.

"Senior government officials, meanwhile, publicly scolded Western correspondents in two news conferences and a public statement for failing to portray the crackdown in the government's terms: as a war against violent terrorists. On Sunday, even General Sisi joined the chorus, criticizing foreign news media for failing to appreciate his mandate to fight terrorism. The criticisms echoed incessantly through the state and private media, and, in an apparent response, vigilante supporters of General Sisi have attacked or detained at least a dozen foreign journalists, a vast majority on the same day that an adviser to the president delivered the first diatribe against Western news coverage. . . ."


International Press Institute: Foreign media targeted in Egypt

Pew Research Center for the People and the Press: Public Backs Cutoff of Military Aid to Egypt


Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: A lack of spine on Egypt

DeWayne Wickham, USA Today: Aid cutoff to Egypt would do nothing

Ellsworth Davis, 86, First Black Photog at Washington Post

Ellsworth J. Davis, the first African American photographer at the Washington Post, initially making his mark at Ebony magazine, died Aug. 14 at his Washington home, family members said. "He had a lot of ailments," his wife, Paulette, told Journal-isms. He was 86.


Linda Wheeler, who worked with Davis at the Post, relayed an anecdote that shed light on how black photographers were regarded by some in the mainstream media. Davis was followed by Matthew Lewis, the Post's second African American photographer, who went on to lead the department and win a Pulitzer Prize.

"Dick Darcey was considered young to be a photo department head," Wheeler recalled in an email. "He was promoted from within in the mid-1960s and was mostly known as a fine sports photographer. He changed things quickly in the all-white-male staff line up, which was typical for its day, when he hired Ellsworth and then Matt. (Later he added Margaret Thomas and then me.) He loved to tell this story. At photo conferences, he would be asked by directors of other newspaper photo departments, 'Well, what do you do with them (Ellsworth and Matt) when there are no riots?'


"Dick would answer them by saying, 'Well (long pause), I send them to the Nationals' games and the White House and Capitol Hill. Why do you ask?'

"He'd be grinning while relating this story and then burst out laughing, saying he could still see the faces of the guys who asked him the question."


"Dave," as some called him, sometimes did cover riots, Lewis recalled by telephone. Lewis and Davis were teamed with William Raspberry, Robert C. Maynard or other Post reporters of the day. Unlike magazine photography, Lewis said, when photographers received assignments at  newspapers, "all they wanted you to do is get that one picture that was going to tell the story."

Wheeler messaged fellow Post alums on Monday, "I had been selected as the 1968 photo intern and was waiting for my start date in June when the Civil Riots broke out in DC. I brought in film from my Dupont Circle neighborhood and was immediately put on the street. We were to work in teams and Ellsworth drew me. He wasn't happy. Here I was an untested, very young photographer with more guts than sense.


"He made me the driver of one of the staff cars (a stripped down Ford as I recall) and off we went up 14th Street and then around Meridian Hill Park. At one point, we ran into a barricade created by rioters in an alley way. He yelled REVERSE! and I did. We were traveling backwards fast. Then, around to 14th Street again. We stopped at Florida Avenue, watching the action a block south at U Street. He said, creep forward and let me get a picture of the burning bus. We did. He got the picture and then we did that reverse thing again.

"That was the way we got through the next couple of hours, the old pro showing the newbie the ropes. When we got back to the office, Director Dick Darcey asked how did it go.


"Ellsworth, bless him, mumbled something like 'She's OK.' Golden words for a newbie."

Davis spent 30 years at the Post, from 1961 to 1991.

"As an experienced photographer and a Washington native connected to the community, Mr. Davis helped shape the paper's visual coverage of social unrest surrounding the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement," Emily Langer wrote in the Post's obituary, posted Monday.


"At one demonstration in 1965, Mr. Davis stood behind the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and photographed the crowd of protesters as King saw them from the stage, their eyes fixed on him and their expressions as solemn and determined as his.

Langer also wrote, "Mr. Davis photographed Washington figures including a combative President Richard M. Nixon before the press corps and Katharine Graham, The Post's publisher and company president, during the newspaper's legal battle over the printing of the Pentagon Papers. He documented murder scenes as well as more tranquil sites around the city. . . ."


"A lot of the older white photographers were concerned about the quality of our pictures and were doctrinaire in their offerings," Craig Herndon, who became a Post photographer in 1968, told Journal-isms by email. "Ellsworth seemed more concerned about the quality of our lives. He always asked about our families and seemed to care about our children's welfare. He gave advice to young photographers about life, always beginning, 'young man…'"

"He liked a good time and set an example for us younger photographers and journalists. He showed up at all the parties and was always ready to work the next day. He was seldom emotionally upset, but had a clear estimation of the world we lived in. "


Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at Cheltenham Veterans Cemetery, 11301 Crain Highway, Cheltenham, Md. 20623, 301-372-6398, with repast at Living Word Love Fellowship, 1853 Brightseat Road, Landover, Md. 20785, 301-772-2025.

The Exposure Group: Ellsworth J. Davis, Maurice Sorrell Lifetime Achievement Award — 2001


"The Butler" Opening Nearly Recoups Its Production Costs

"Not a week after his popular A1 story on a White House butler ran in 2008, Wil Haygood swung by my desk," Michael Cavna, who writes the Washington Post blog "Comic Riffs," wrote on Sunday. "We often talk film, so it especially meant something when he shared the news:

" 'A top Sony executive,' he confided, 'wants to make this.'

"Haygood spoke with guarded optimism, having had a previous work of his optioned by Hollywood, only to see it go nowhere."


Cavna added, "Over the weekend, the film inspired by his Post article sure went somewhere.

"The Weinstein Co. film stars Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines — a White House butler based on real-life Eugene Allen, who served eight presidents — and is set against the sweep of the civil-rights movement. 'The Butler,' which drummed up financial backing buoyed by 41 producers, has already nearly covered its reported $30-million production budget."


Amy Kaufman added in the Los Angeles Times, "The picture has been a hit with critics, and opening-weekend moviegoers loved it, too, assigning the film an average grade of A, according to marketing research firm CinemaScore. Roughly 60% of the crowd was female, and the movie appealed to an older demographic, with 76% of the audience over the age of 35. . . ." Oprah Winfrey's presence in the cast was a large share of the attraction.

The film became the first African American drama to hit No. 1 at the box office, according to Gil L. Robertson IV, co-founder of the African American Film Critics Association.


The film is "inspired by" Haygood's story and by Allen's life, but one incident that wasn't fictionalized is a firebombing of a bus carrying Freedom Riders. Inside the real-life bus near Anniston, Ala., was a black journalist, Moses Newson of the Afro-American newspapers.

Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff report in the 2006 book "The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation," "Newson had seen meanness in Little Rock, but these people were rattlesnake mean — intent on killing. They smashed windows with bricks and an ax and hurled a Molotov cocktail into the bus. It ignited the seat immediately back of Newson; sparks singed one of his ears. A woman who was returning to her home in Birmingham after attending her father's funeral put her head on the seat in front of her and prayed. 'Why are they doing this? Why did I get on this bus?' Newson heard her say. 'I don't want to die here like this.' "


Eliana Dockterman, Time: WhatThe Butler really saw: Fact vs. Fiction in Lee Daniels' The Butler

Kevin Fallon, Daily Beast: 'The Butler' Fact Check: How True Is This True Story?

Henry Louis Gates Jr., The Root: 'The Butler': Lifting the Veil on Black Life

Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Too many black stars clueless about past

Al Jazeera America Debuts, but Advertisers Still Skittish

"Al Jazeera America (AJAM) launches on Tuesday with both the boundless enthusiasm of the hard-core news hounds who are driving its slick, expensive content, and a branding problem as big as the Persian Gulf," Sam Thielman reported Monday for Adweek.


"Thus far, even endemics are balking at the startup. One client, a financial services company that exclusively buys news, begged off a chance to buy time on AJAM even though it is 'a perfect fit' for the network, according to a TV buyer who spoke on condition of anonymity.

" 'We totally tried to talk our client into doing it, but they are very conservative,' the buyer said. Until it's clear that there's no chance of bad press, they won't budge. 'It's going to be a big problem for a lot of people.'


"It may be fighting an uphill battle with advertisers afraid of being associated with an Arabic name (which simply means 'The Peninsula,' by the way), but among the literati, Al Jazeera has a sterling reputation as the network that knows the Middle East upside down and sideways. Ninety percent of Americans who've watched Al Jazeera liked it, said interim CEO Ehab Al Shihabi; that said, 75 percent of people who hadn't tuned in had a negative opinion of the channel. . . ."

Eric Deggans, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times: As Al Jazeera America tries redefining cable TV news, will Tampa Bay audiences miss the experiment?


Gabrielle Kratsas, American Journalism Review: With Soledad O'Brien, Al Jazeera America Gears Up for Launch (Aug. 9)

Brian Stelter, New York Times: Al Jazeera America Promises a More Sober Look at the News


Sam Thielman, Adweek: Al Jazeera America Will Have 6 Minutes of Ads Per Hour

Alex Weprin, TVNewser: Al Jazeera Bracing For 'Impact,' Al Jazeera America Prepares To Launch 


PBS Three-Part "Latino Americans" Seeks a Wide Audience

"An ambitious PBS documentary on the 500-year history of Latinos in America is aimed at a broad audience," its producer said at a TV press tour this month, Lynn Elber reported for the Associated Press.


" 'These stories are not that distant from anyone. I think in some ways we share similar experiences no matter where we come from,' and whether people are immigrants or not, 'American Latinos' producer Adriana Bosch told a meeting of the Television Critics Association.

"Featuring familiar faces such as Oscar-winning actress Rita Moreno and journalist Ray Suarez was part of enhancing the film's appeal, Bosch said. Actor Benjamin Bratt is the narrator.


"The three-part, six-hour documentary debuting in September includes interviews with Dolores Huerta, co-founder of a group that was the forerunner to the United Farm Workers of America; writer and commentator and Linda Chavez; and musician Gloria Estefan.

"Bratt, whose mother emigrated from Peru as a teenager, said Latinos have not historically been seen as part of the American story.


" 'American history always is from a Eurocentric point of view, and the real American history is so much richer than that,' Bratt said during a panel discussion. "Even in 2013, we are still seen as the mysterious, exotic 'other,' even though we are as American as anyone else.' . . . "

Short Takes

George E. Curry, editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service, is the cover subject of the August/September/October issue of SCLC, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Magazine. Asked in a Q-and-A whether the black press has been lax in making the case for civil rights, Curry replied, "I don't think we have been lax. The problem is that more than half the Black population was not born when they had the original March on Washington. To them, the Civil Rights Movement is like the Civil War — it's ancient history. We assumed the next generation would benefit, but we have failed to teach them about our past. I blame our generation for that because we have not passed that on. That's why when I led journalism workshops for high school kids, I started the program with segments of [the documentary] 'Eyes On The Prize.' If they never learn anything about journalism, they would learn about their history. . . ."


"The Long Beach Register, a new daily newspaper published by the Orange County Register, debuts Monday," Mary Ann Milbourn reported for the Orange County Register. "The expansion is the first Register publication outside of Orange County under new owners Aaron Kushner and Eric Spitz, who bought Freedom Communications Inc., the newspaper's parent company, last year." Editor Paul Eakins, who covered Long Beach politics and government before being named city editor of the Long Beach Press-Telegram, did not respond to a query about the diversity of the staff.

"You might think Oprah Winfrey has it pretty good — a cable network, a magazine, besties with the president and his wife, and, oh yeah, billions of dollars," Media Life Magazine reported Friday. "But last summer things didn't feel so great for the media mogul. She says she experienced symptoms of a nervous breakdown last summer after taking over as chief executive officer of her then-struggling cable venture, which had a bumpy launch in 2011. She discussed the feelings with People and on Bravo's 'Watch What Happens Live,' saying that she felt overwhelmed by the bad press OWN was receiving. . . ."


On Monday, Univision Communications Inc., announced a new expansion of its Es el Momento (The Moment is Now) website, with the launch of "Go 4 It!," a new bilingual section featuring digital content, including news, resources and information. "The latest page is aimed at young Hispanics transitioning from high school to college, and those currently in universities, and represents a continued commitment by the company to closing the education gap in Latino communities across the U.S. . . ."

Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education ( Reprinted on The Root by permission.


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