Paper Apologizes for Civil Rights Coverage
"That was really all the news we had," said Audrey Grevious, a former leader in Lexington's chapter of the NAACP.
"Without that, we wouldn't have known anything that was going on."
Former newspaper employees said management tried to downplay what happened locally.
"The rare march or protest that made front-page news usually involved arrests of demonstrators and was described in the terse, clipped tones of a police report," wrote Blackford and Minch.
Robert Horine, a Leader reporter starting in 1958, recalled going to one of the first sit-ins.
"I talked to several of the people seated at the counter, and I had a story for Sunday's paper," he told the newspaper. "When I got back, the editors said, 'Absolutely not.' "
The orders came from then-general manager and publisher Fred Wachs Sr., who died in 1974.
Fred Wachs Jr. said his father supported desegregation but favored a cautious approach.
"He didn't like the idea of some of these rabble-rousers coming in and causing trouble," Wachs told the newspaper. "He tried to keep that off the pages."
However, the papers published national stories about the civil rights movement, such as the 1965 march in Selma, Ala., and the 1963 church bombings in Birmingham, Ala.
Thomas Peoples, a former NAACP leader, said the decisions were intended to retain readers.
"They catered to the white citizenry, and the white community just prayed that rumors and reports would be swept under the rug and just go away," Peoples told the Herald-Leader.
Smith said he found evidence of Lexington sit-ins around July 1959, a year ahead of ones in other states that received publicity. Most of the city's public places were desegregated by 1964.
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