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UA Little Rock Graduate Completes Thesis on Content in German-Language Newspaper During WWI

Harrison Mitchell
Harrison Mitchell

A graduating UA Little Rock student is thankful to the history department for helping prepare him for a career as an archivist through the extensive research he was required to do for his thesis. 

Little Rock native Harrison Mitchell earned his bachelor’s degree in news editorial journalism from UA Little Rock in 2011. Now over a decade later, he graduated with a master’s degree in public history on Dec. 17.

Mitchell’s thesis explores written content in Das Arkansas Echo, a German-language newspaper based in Little Rock during World War I. The Echo is the only surviving newspaper source about Arkansas’s German community, as well as the only insight into what the German press was printing during the war.

Mitchell got his inspiration for the topic from the year he spent as a foreign exchange student in Vienna, Austria, in high school.

“That experience really cemented the language for me,” Mitchell said. “Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to do this research at all, since most of it was in German.”

Mitchell focused his research on the years between 1914 and 1918, comparing the tone and content before and after the United States entered the war to see how the newspaper handled the growing anti-German sentiment in the country during the shift.

Research also came from, “Das Arkansas Echo: A Year in the Life of Germans in the Nineteenth-Century South” by Kathleen Condray, associate professor of German at the University of Arkansas. The book examines the topics covered during its inaugural year, including the newspaper’s crusade against prohibition, advocacy for German schools and language, and stance on immigration.

“Overall, I’d say the program prepares you for the field really well, especially when it comes to research,” Mitchell said. “I even had a graduate assistantship for the Center for Arkansas History and Culture downtown to supplement my archival learning and give me hands-on experience.”

He organized his information on a database, the idea of which he credits to Dr. Charles Romney, professor of history and graduate coordinator of the public history program.

“I collected about 300 articles, so it was a lot to keep track of,” Mitchell said. “The database gave me key searchability, helped me identify common themes, and what was going on. Staying organized is one of the most important parts of a research process.”