Elliot Jaspin: His book is the last thing the AJC editors want you to read

Historians in the News

In 1912, something very bad happened in Forsyth County. But if you live in Atlanta -- and rely on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for information – you may have found out about it just seven weeks ago.

What occurred during the intervening 95 years has a lot to do with the South's collective amnesia over its racial sins. And, according to a new book by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, the AJC has contributed over the years to the memory loss.

The book – Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America, written by Elliot Jaspin – argues that AJC editors eviscerated an earlier newspaper series he wrote on racial cleansing in 14 American counties, including Forsyth. He wrote the articles for Cox Newspapers, which owns the AJC.

Jaspin claims the series – penned after five years of research – was spiked locally because the articles would have embarrassed the AJC by reporting previous whitewashes by the newspaper of racial cleansing in Forsyth County.

Failing that, Jaspin says, the AJC prevailed upon the Cox brass to soften the mentions of the newspaper's accounts, or as he puts it, "bowdlerize" his groundbreaking reporting.

Although the AJC didn't run the series, "Leave or Die," other Cox papers did, as well as other non-Cox publications. That created the odd circumstance in which the chain's largest newspaper didn't run high-profile articles by its own Washington bureau, stories that highlighted events in the AJC's own backyard. The series was co-sponsored by the Washington bureau and by the Cox-owned American-Statesman in Austin, Texas. The print version ran 16 full pages.

AJC editors "are afraid of angering white people," Cox Washington Bureau Chief Andy Alexander is quoted as saying by Jaspin in his book, which will be released March 12 and expands on the series' reporting. Alexander, who is Jaspin's supervisor, in a statement last month to a journalism blog concedes he uttered the quote but attributes it to the "heat of the editing process."...

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