What was John Chancellor’s remembrance of TV's impact on civil rights and the South in Allison Graham’s Framing the South?
In Framing the South, Allison Graham quotes John Chancellor, the television journalist, who remembered that television coverage of the civil rights movement caused a major change in self-perception and self-awareness (with generally positive results) among Southerners. Chancellor is quoted describing:
...the wonderful impact of technology...and northern reporters on the sleepy southern towns into which we all came...we were able to show these people themselves on television. They'd never seen themselves. They didn't know their necks were red. They didn't know they were overweight...
Graham does not agree with Chancellor's assessment, saying that she doubts "many southerners of either race would concur." She points to the fact that the South had long been a subject of caricature, in movies and literature, and that if the television cameras revealed anything, it was no more than northern journalists like H.L. Mencken had said decades earlier:
By 1957, most southerners knew their necks were red, and most black southerners knew they were voiceless images in a tale of blood and vengeance.
Indeed, Graham's argument is that the depiction of opponents of integration, such as those in the small town of Hoxie in Life magazine, as ignorant yokels actually inflamed opposition to integration. It was not, the "sight of their own red necks," however, that "galvanized" Southern whites. The causes were far more complex, and Graham suggests that the news coverage was part of a need to disassociate southern elites from southern "crackers." This enabled them to frame the events they were witnessing as an attempt to educate, or redeem white America (or at least the southern part of it) even as they brought civil rights to southern blacks.
Graham notes the theme of the assimilation of Southern hillbillies and rednecks in a number of films, including the spate of Elvis Presley films. The news coverage provided by reporters like John Chancellor, she argues, was an example of how the "narrative conventions of the 1950s and 1960s" informed American understandings of whiteness and modernity. She is primarily interested, however, in how these tropes played on motion picture screens.