How did you become involved in AJHA?
I’ve been familiar with AJHA for several years thanks to involved mentors, but I didn’t join until this summer when I finished a paper submission after completing my master’s degree at the University of Georgia.
How did you get into media history?
My junior year at the University of Tennessee, I took a media history course with Ed Caudill. History and media had always respectively been my jam, but it hadn’t ever occurred to me that I could study the history of media. We explored the evolution of American media, and I found myself more drawn to our discussions about Hearst vs. Pulitzer and “The War of the Worlds” than I did inverted pyramid practice.
The next semester, Amber Roessner taught our course on literary journalism. She used historical, cultural, and critical lenses to underpin our class discussions about long-form journalism examples and practice. She couched substantial theory into what seemed like just a fun undergrad writing elective. It wasn’t until halfway through my second semester of graduate school (when I took a deeper dive into research) that I realized how she’d informed the course. She deserves much credit for my career as the first to recognize my interest and passion. She has championed me every step of the way and led me to other great mentors like Janice Hume and Karen Russell.
What is your most recent research about?
The paper I will present in October examines collective memory of the Civil War through newspaper coverage of Confederate symbols, extending my previous work to explore the role of Confederate flags in addition to monuments. The study derives in part from my master’s thesis. In the 1890s and later in the 1920s, Confederate flags and southern flowers served as symbols of goodwill, at least according to oft-quoted political and business power brokers. Organizers attempted to fly the “Conquered Banner” (the Stars and Bars) alongside the United States flag or used flowers in its place as a show of southern pride during unveiling events. I argue newspapers helped to craft the reconciliation narrative that resulted from a white-ruling desire to connect the sections economically, thus contributing to marginalization of minority dissent through potent southern reverence.
Your research mirrors today’s conditions in many ways. Were you inspired by current events, or was it coincidental?
My study actually started as a class research proposal in October 2019, well before the events of Summer 2020. I turned that proposal into my thesis proposal, not knowing how timely it would become. Gov. Ralph Northam ordered the removal of the Richmond, Virginia, Robert E. Lee monument the very day I analyzed initial coverage of its unveiling. The coincidence certainly sparked some reflexive moments to consider: a) history as a conversation between the past and present, and b) my positions on praxis and its future role in my career.
Finally, what hobbies or interests outside of academia do you enjoy?
Southeastern Conference sports dominate many of my weekends. It comes with the territory when you have degrees from two and work at another! Otherwise, you can find me listening to music, watching 60s/70s sitcoms or classic films, shopping, or spending time with friends. I love music and have been a musician for most of my life. I grew up playing piano and singing, and am classically trained in the latter. (Great for living in the Music City)! I also read French novels whenever I can. I double majored in journalism and French as an undergrad, so putting that other muscle to use always feels gratifying. La plus belle langue, à mon avis!
Lexie Little is a former magazine feature writer and sports columnist, now an associate content creator at Vanderbilt University. She is the 2021 recipient of the Robert Lance Memorial Award for Outstanding Student Paper and the Wally Eberhard Award for the Outstanding Paper on Media and War. She currently serves as Social Media Chair for the AEJMC Magazine Media Division and intends to later pursue her Ph.D. with interests in journalism history and critical and cultural studies.