Race, Media, and Political Activism

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s political actors (civil rights activists, dedicated segregationists, local and national politicians, among others) attempted to use the media to their advantage. While the new television medium had the ability to eclipse print's audience, newspapers and periodicals continued to feed news to large segments of the population. Mainstream and Native newspapers helped to shape their readers’ understandings of current events. Mainstream news sources at the national, regional, and local level covered Native issues in varying ways.

In addition to greater coverage among mainstream news sources, a nationalistic Native American news media developed in the 1960s and 1970s, offering Native Americans a voice on current events. Three major Native newspapers were founded in the 1960s and 1970s and brought tribal and urban news to a wide audience. The transformations in media coverage led to two trends. The first was a more visible presence of Native American issues in the public discourse. Matters of public policy as it concerned Native Americans were discussed widely and sympathetically by media sources. Through the public attention that Red Power activism drew, Congressional leaders engaged Indian affairs, passed several bills and resolutions favorable to Native issues, and eventually embraced tribal self-determination. Second, a growing political awareness among Native Americans that focused on issues beyond the confines of a tribe or region. Networks developed among tribal leaders, journalists, and activists who worked together to confront national Indian issues.