CONFERENCE IN ATLANTA:
Civil Rights Action Through the Media
Arthur B. Spingarn, New York lawyer and National Association for
the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) founder, asked Edward
Bernays to handle publicity for the 1920 regional convention in
Atlanta, the respectful term for black people was "Negro",
though not too many people were using it. Affecting a major attitudinal
change was to be a terrific challenge.
a major attitudinal change was to be a terrific challenge.
goals of the campaign were to use the Atlanta Convention as "a
springboard for publicity, to make the South and North realize that
we are in earnest in battling for the civil rights of the Negro."
These "rights" were considered revolutionary: abolish
lynching, segregation, and Jim Crow railroad cars; and obtain equal
education, industrial opportunities, and voting rights.
the NAACP conference in Atlanta was "startling to say the least,"
according to The New York Times. While Bernays began contacting
Northern newspapers and press services offering to cover the convention
for them, his associate and future wife, Doris Fleischman, went
to Atlanta to recruit Georgia's elected officials to attend the
conference and show their support.
Atlanta, Fleischman was threatened by the people opposed to "Negro
rights," and the politicians were unnerved. The Governor told
her that he couldn't attend the conference because he had to go
duck hunting. She suggested that it might be a good idea to have
the militia stand by in case of violence. He agreed.
the time Bernays arrived from New York, the community was filled
with tension and there were repeated threats of mass violence. Unintimidated,
Bernays and Fleischman outlined three themes to the media:
"the Negro's importance to the economic development of the
south." Bernays said, "This approach was based on an appeal
to their (white people's) fear of losing profits if migration of
"the less intolerant attitudes of some Southern leaders toward
Negroes which would hopefully strengthen the nucleus of supporters
and develop a bandwagon movement."
"the support of the NAACP by important leaders in the north
to induce Southern group leaders to follow their lead. Bernays had
gathered statements from north leaders which he promoted in the
conference was held without incident and delegates to the conference
voted to send their objectives to President Wilson and to Congress.
Media coverage was impressive. Atlanta's newspapers, The New
York Globe, The Evening Post, The Chicago Daily, and others
carried stories about the meeting and a feature outlining "progress
made by Negroes from the plantation labor to business and the professions."
the first time in the history of the country," Bernays said,
"under the dateline of the South's industrial metropolis, news
was published throughout the country alerting the people of the
United States that whites and negroes alike were seeking new status
for the Negro."