First year master’s student presents research at civil rights conference
By: Yasmeen Ebada
First year master’s student Claire Rounkles presented her research at the Media & Civil Rights History Symposium at the University of South Carolina in early March.
Rounkles’ research paper, “A Court held at Midnight, the Lynching of Roscoe Parker,” examines 16-year-old Roscoe Parker, an African American boy from Winchester, Ohio who was horrifically lynched in Adams County, Ohio. Rounkles examined the Cincinnati Gazette and the Cleveland Gazette to answer the following research questions: How was Parker depicted in the newspaper articles and columns published in the Cincinnati Gazette? What was the narrative point that the reporters took when reporting the case? What was the journalists’ role during the coverage of the lynching? How did the complacent action of the Cincinnati Gazette reporter affect the case?
Rounkles’ paper is part of a bigger project that she is working on for her master’s thesis where she will be examining all the cases of lynching that spread across Ohio during the lynching era in the U.S.
“This research is important because there are a lot of parts of U.S. history that have never been told. We tend to shy away from our dark past,” Rounkles said. “Given the opportunity for his story to be out there and to be told is not only a privilege, but a big and crucial part of us accepting where we came from, where we are at right now and how we can become a better society.”
Rounkles wrote this paper as part of Dr. Michael Sweeney’s historiography class in the fall of 2018. She said Sweeney encouraged her to look at history as a journalist.
“He really pushed the notion of digging and finding something a little bit deeper than just settling. Throughout the whole process of my paper I would go to him multiple times and just sit, talk with him and throw ideas at him to try to figure out how to do research,” Rounkles said. “He was a guiding hand to helping me understand what I needed to look at and how I needed to dig, besides that he also encouraged me to find out more about the story, so he really just pushed me on my own to dig for the story ultimately.”
Sweeney said the word he would use to describe Rounkles as a researcher is a “badger.” He said Rounkles goes after what she is looking for and, in this case, primary documents that are obscure or difficult to find in places with a relentless focus.
“It is just wonderful how much energy she put into finding the bricks to build a really good paper out of, so I loved having her in class because of her energy, her smarts and her focus,” he said.
Sweeney said the paper is good enough to be published in an academic journal, particularly because of the topic’s significance because she is reestablishing the prevalence of lynching in Ohio, restoring it to our history. A lot of historians have a tiny piece of the history of that, but she is compiling a database as part of her background research.
“She is trying to get all of the lynching in Ohio in this database and tell a story about them but then she focuses in detail about one particular case in which the media were complicit. Some reporters knew that a lynching was going to take place and they did nothing to stop it, and they did so because they thought it would be a good sensational story to sell newspapers, our ethics were a little different back then,” Sweeney said. “I think she is going to be great, and I like her visual background coming from photography I think that could be something that she brings to her research at some point.”
Associate professor and Graduate Director Aimee Edmondson said Rounkles is wise beyond her years.
“She tells me she plans to continue her studies as a doctoral student and join the academy. She’s well suited for it,” Edmondson said.
The Media & Civil Rights History Symposium was held in conjunction with the Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) Southeast Colloquium.