The Journalism of Roy Wilkins and the Rise of Law-and-Order Rhetoric, 1964–1968

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In late 1964, NAACP Executive Director Roy Wilkins became the first African American newspaper columnist syndicated widely in the white, mainstream press. This study looks at how Wilkins used his new journalistic platform to engage in the emerging conservative discourse over law and order. Wilkins tried to combat the pervasive stereotype of the violent black criminal, but as his column spread to more newspapers and his opinions reached deeper into the white mainstream, his efforts backfired. This research argues that his harsh denunciations of black criminality, delivered under the imprimatur of the NAACP, served to legitimize the stereotype, granting it greater authority in the national public sphere. Despite Wilkins’s prominence, his journalism has received little attention in studies of the civil rights movement and the political upheaval of the 1960s.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)250-269
Number of pages20
JournalJournalism history
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019


  • African American history
  • civil rights
  • journalism history
  • political history

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