The Changing South of Gene Patterson:
Journalism and Civil Rights, 1960-1968

Edited by Roy Peter Clark and Raymond Arsenault

Foreword by Stanley Harrold and Randall M. Miller, Series Editors
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"In pointing us toward how to be 'better than we are,' Gene Patterson--passionate, funny, sound of mind and full of heart--coincidentally reminds us just how fine journalism can be. This is a wonderful, inspiring book."--Geneva Overholser, syndicated columnist, Washington Post Writers Group, and Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Reporting, University of Missouri

"Proves that journalism at its best can endure as literature. A compelling portrait of the 1960s and the American South by an engaged participant and acute observer."--Robert Schmuhl, University of Notre Dame

The Changing South of Gene Patterson celebrates the work of one of America's most influential journalists who wrote in a time and place of dramatic social and political upheaval. The editor of the Atlanta Constitution from 1960 through 1968, Patterson wrote directly to his fellow white southerners every day, working to persuade them to change their ways. His words were so inspirational that he was asked by Walter Cronkite to read his most famous column, about the Birmingham church bombing, live on the CBS Evening News.

This volume includes over 120 of Patterson's best pieces, selected from some 3,200 columns. These columns offer probing commentary on the crucial issues of race, civil rights, social justice, and desegregation; some reveal examples of political and moral leadership, drawn from every corner of southern culture. Introductory essays, framing Patterson's work as journalism and literature, place it in the context of southern history and the evolution of white southern liberalism. Patterson himself contributes a new essay, reflecting on his life, work, and times.

At a time when protest, violence, and confrontation defined race relations and even the South itself, Patterson's wise, sane, humorous, passionate column appeared daily on the Constitution's editorial page, urging white southerners to become "better than we are." Speaking as one who "grew up hard" in small-town Georgia, Patterson could urge change with a conviction and credibility matched by few others. With enlightened leadership and adherence to the rule of law, the sky would not fall, Patterson assured his readers. While black leaders led America toward civil rights and social justice, writers such as Patterson had the courage to appeal to the white southern conscience. Unmistakably engaged with his time and place, Patterson's columns provide a compelling day-to-day look at the civil rights era as it unfolded.

Roy Peter Clark is a senior scholar at The Poynter Institute, a school for journalists in St. Petersburg, Florida. Raymond Arsenault is the John Hope Franklin Professor of History at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg.

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"To read Patterson's columns is to relive the daily human and political drama, with King as the protagonist, what we now call the civil rights movement." - St. Petersburg Times St. Petersburg Times

"What emerges from these individual pieces is not the career history of one newspaperman, but a beautifully nuanced portrait of a community, a region, and a people at an undeniable turning point." - Atlanta Journal-Constitution.com Atlanta Journal-Constitution.com

"What emerges from these individual pieces is not the career history of one newspaperman, but a beautifully nuanced portrait of a community, a region and a people at an undeniable turning point." - Atlanta Journal-Constitution Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Make no mistake, this is no warmed-over version of Ole Dixie, gone but not forgotten. These are the words of one who coupled courage with wise counsel and understanding with hair-shirt criticism to hurry that change along." - St. Petersburg Times St. Petersburg Times

"Not often can we see history being written. Seldom can we go back in time with one who was there. Rarely can we watch events push the past into the future. But through Gene Patterson's newspaper columns, published in the Atlanta Constitution from 1960-1968 and now collected in The Changing South of Gene Patterson, we can witness how the South of yesterday became the South of today." - St. Petersburg Times St. Petersburg Times

"[These] more than 3,000 columns represent one of the most impressive bodies of work in the journalism of the 20th century...shows journalism at its best"--National Press Club National Press Club website

"His ambition for the South, and the tone with which he would express it, is immediately clear" - Oxford American Oxford American

"Is an admirable compilation of primary sources for understanding a Southern mind amidst the civil rights movement. . . . As historians work to understand the Southern white mind amidst the changes of the second Reconstruction, the strengths, inconsistencies, and equivocations of Gene Patterson will be a useful guide." H-Florida

" A collection of columns written by one of the most gifted writers of our time." ; " We often hear newspaper reporting described as the first draft of history. [ … ] "The Changing South of Gene Patterson" are superb examples and rich reading for anyone interested not only in history, but also in excellent journalism that helped to tell the stories of race in America in the mid-20th century." Nieman Reports

" Don't miss the exciting book full of events that you will want to read all about." Valdosta Times

"A viable contribution to civil rights scholarship and media history." "Most important, though, is that a study of a moderate southern journalist like Gene Patterson reveals a much more contemplative and socially conscious South: a South doing its best to come to grips with the demands of equality and morality." Southern Historian

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