Historical Consciousness In The Selma-Montgomery March

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Television news moulds historical consciousness by presenting its own construction of history. Historical consciousness is “individual and collective understandings of the past, the cognitive and cultural factors which shape those understandings, as well as the relations of historical understandings to those of the present and the future.” Television news documents events such as the Selma-Montgomery march to propagate its own version of history. The news painted a narrative of the march that saw African Americans as heroes in a righteous protest, fighting for the democracy that their nation prided itself on, and the White Americans of the South as villains, obstructing them from achieving their goals. As said by historian Amos Fukenstein, …show more content…

The creative freedom the news has allows it to conceive a new historical consciousness. As proposed by Fukenstein, historical consciousness is essentially determined by “the degree of creative freedom in the use and interpretation of the contents of collective memory.” Audiences have unbiased memories as they are not present during the events the news captures. Their memories are mainly derived from the news’ interpretation of events, turning the news into a medium for the shaping of public memory. For example, images of protestors being gassed at Edmund Pettus Bridge conjured emotions of horror and anger in the American public. Historian Sasha Torres reflects that, “viewers found themselves inundated with journalistic representations of the social change struggle..” The emotions they felt as they viewed the news footage would permeate public memory, and thus alter the public understanding of historical events or issues concerning America’s racial divide. When the public revised their history in the case of the march, a new historical consciousness was forged as the news creates “cultural glue” which united its audience in a collective historical mindset that adheres to the historical account it has conceived on their television screens. This is exemplified in the reactions towards television news footage of the Selma-Montgomery March, March, reflecting the outcry it engendered as a result of America’s new historical

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