September 23, 2019
VSU’s Thomas Aiello Receives 2019 Book Award from American Journalism Historians Association
|Dr. Thomas Aiello|
VALDOSTA — Dr. Thomas Aiello, professor of history and African-American studies at Valdosta State University, is the winner of the 2019 Book Award from the American Journalism Historians Association (AJHA) for his 2018 book, “The Grapevine of the Black South: The Scott Newspaper Syndicate in the Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement.”
The book is Aiello’s study of the preeminent black press of the Southern states in the early 1900s.
“Most of the literature on the black press emphasizes northern and western newspapers, largely because they were saved and thus reviewable,” Aiello said. “But the vast majority of the black population in the first half of the twentieth century was in the South. The problem with understanding those papers, particularly in any systematic way, is access.
“The Scott Newspaper Syndicate was the core of most newspaper activity in the South, so through an understanding of its activity, we can better understand an often forgotten and often misunderstood part of the information network that helped create the ideology of the Southern civil rights movement that everyone venerates.”
Aiello’s goals for the book, however, go beyond just understanding a key Southern press.
“I hope the book gives readers a real understanding not only of the Scott Syndicate and the black press in the South, but also of how important networks of information are to meaning-making and ideology in any given community,” he said. “I think as historians we often get tangled in the assumption that newspapers are primarily a source of information for historical subjects rather than absolutely vital historical subjects themselves. Information networks create power and culture in a variety of ways, and understanding those networks in the South gives us a new understanding of the civil rights mindset and its trajectory on the ground.”
Aiello will be formally recognized as part of a Book Award panel presentation at the 38th Annual AJHA National Convention, which will take place Oct. 3-5 in Dallas, Texas.
“For a book that deals with the history of journalism, there is no greater honor than the Book Award from the AJHA,” Aiello said. “That organization is the standard, the experts in the field, so I am very pleased and grateful that they have chosen to recognize my work.”
Founded in 1981, the American Journalism Historians Association seeks to advance education and research in mass communication history. Members work to raise historical standards and ensure that all scholars and students recognize the vast importance of media history and apply this knowledge to the advancement of society.On the Web: