Joe Killian, NC Policy Watch »

Journalists like to think of themselves as part of a long lineage of truth seekers, a “fourth estate” in American life keeping government honest and shining light in dark places since the founding of the republic.

But when UNC-Chapel Hill alum Kathy Roberts Forde returns to the university’s journalism school Wednesday, it will be to discuss how seductive an illusion that is – and how the truth is much more complicated.

A new book she co-edited, Journalism and Jim Crow: White Supremacy and the Struggle for a New America, details how the mainstream white press worked to help embed racism in journalism and society and the Black press risked everything to expose it.

“White newspaper editors and publishers and journalists were in the thick of building white supremacy in the South,” Forde told Policy Watch this week. “And they did it in a lot of different ways. Black journalists, both in the South and in the North, were very clear eyed about what was happening as it was happening. They were effectively fighting back against what the white press in the South at the time was doing.”

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