Last night I clicked through the channels once last time before turning off the television and meandering back to bed. I’m glad I did.
That is how I stumbled on “The Editor and the Dragon” on PBS. It is an hour-long documentary, narrated by Morgan Freeman, about an heroic editor named Horace Carter and his one-man battle with the leader of the local Ku Klux Klan in Tabor City, N.C. It’s compelling video for anyone in our business.
Carter was a young editor in 1950 when local fascists began to be more vocal about their paranoia. The sheet-wearing thugs rolled through town in nighttime parades and eventually just started beating people who didn’t conform to their warped reading of the Bible. The re-establishment of the klan in that period is an ominous reminder of what can happen when we allow fear of “the other” to become a convenient scapegoat for challenges borne by a changing society. It will sound familiar to anyone living in 2016 America.
Carter – publisher of a small weekly in rural North Carolina – won a Pulitzer Prize that year for a collection of his fearless editorials challenging the klan. His words, some read in the documentary, are as moving today as they were 65 years earlier. (By the way, there were heroes like this our company’s past as well.)
It’s easy to say we would all be as brave as Horace Carter. But 1950 was an entirely different time in rural America. As someone says in the documentary, it wasn’t just the threat of physical violence but also the social stigma good white people faced for standing up for their black neighbors. …
I highly recommend dedicating an hour to the documentary, which was produced by the University of North Carolina Center for the Study of the American South. Here’s the trailer and I think you might be able to find the whole thing online.