Activist Journalism: The Chicago Defender’s Coverage of the 1968 Democratic National Convention


  • Scott Anderson Arkansas State University
  • Jonathan M. Smith University of Memphis



This paper analyzes the discourse surrounding the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention from the black journalistic perspective. Examination of articles published in the Chicago Defender surrounding the protests reveals that the flagship black daily newspaper helped African Americans establish an activist presence at a moment when the mainstream press excluded them from the narrative. In the midst of a propaganda war being waged among media members, radical protesters, and politicians, the Defender offered a unique perspective on the chaos that engulfed the convention by highlighting the activity of African Americans, using journalism to comment on the black cultural experience and struggle for equality in 1968, and ultimately attempting to raise awareness and reframe the national conversation on police violence.

Author Biographies

  • Scott Anderson, Arkansas State University

    Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Arkansas State University

  • Jonathan M. Smith, University of Memphis

    Doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication and Film at the University of Memphis