New Research Finds That Historical News Coverage Reduced Executed Black Men to ​“Faceless, Interchangeable Public Safety Hazards” While Executed White Men Were Portrayed As ​“Tragic Heroes”

By The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), on 24 January 2024

Public Opinion 

Published on December 12, 2023.

In a recently published academic article, Emory University History Professor Daniel LaChance writes about an important and underrecognized distinction in the way newspaper editors and journalists covered the executions of Black and white men in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Professor LaChance argues that the portrayals of the defendants made legal executions “a high-status punishment that respected the whiteness of those who suffered it.” While the length and detail of articles about the executions of Black men shrank dramatically over time, he notes that journalists consistently highlighted the humanity of white men who were executed, making it “easier for those who wanted to project a modern image of the South to distance capital punishment from lynching, a form of violence that was becoming a source of embarrassment for respectable white Southerners.”

  • Document type Article
  • Countries list United States
  • Themes list Public Opinion