This summary is provided by IPR based on the original journal article in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill library

Denise Hill, Ph.D., examined how public relations was used by the Committee to Combat Racial Injustice (CCRI), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges, and the United States Information Agency (USIA) in regard to the 1958 North Carolina Kissing Case.

The kissing case occurred in Monroe, North Carolina when a group of children were playing, including two African American boys, age nine and eight, and a 7-year-old white girl. While playing, the 9-year-old boy and the girl kissed one another, which led to the arrest of both African American boys on charges of assaulting and molesting the girl.

Archival materials from the case and related public relations campaigns were analyzed. Two interviews were also conducted.

Key findings include:

  • The kissing case tackled race at the level of societal structure and challenged the meaning of race in U.S. society.
    • The CCRI insisted that the African Americans boys not be treated differently because they were Black, and with this demand, CCRI leaders were attempting to change the social meaning of what it was to be Black.
  • The CCRI’s most prominent message frame – race and racism – was used to focus the audience’s attention on the injustices Black individuals experienced in order to mobilize supporters to help eliminate the injustices.
    • Governor Hodges’ message frame avoided the race frame and focused on retaining the existing social system.
  • Letters and petitions from the case provide tangible evidence that the CCRI had aroused public opinion and created a mass protest, which ultimately led to the release of the boys from jail.
  • The public relations strategies and tactics used by the studied groups in the 1950s are still used today, which provides evidence that the evolutionary view of public relations as proposed by Grunig and Hunt (1984) is flawed.

Implications for Practice
These findings challenge foundational work by Grunig and Hunt (1984) and show how message framing was used to successfully mobilize support for a cause.

Read more to learn about the public relations strategies used by various groups regarding the 1958 North Carolina Kissing Case and the implications these campaigns have on modern-day practice.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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