Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Western Journal of Communication 72:1 (January–March 2008), pp. 62–82.

doi: 10.1080/10570310701828966


Copyright © 2008 Western States Communication Association; published by Routledge/Taylor & Francis. Used by permission.


In 1994, Byron de la Beckwith was convicted for the 1963 murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers. Journalistic coverage of the trial and the 1996 docudrama Ghosts of Mississippi crafted a social values transformation myth that depicted Beckwith as the primary villain of the civil rights past and cast his conviction as a sign that racism had been cleansed from Mississippi. Popular media naturalized this myth intertextually though narrative repetition and through symbolic cues that established the film as a source of historic understanding. These cues deflected critical attention from contemporary social conditions that have maintained racial inequity and continue to prompt racially motivated hate crimes.