Correction: A previous version of this story misstated where Melita Garza spent most of her journalism career. It has since been corrected.
A Schieffer School professor will be the recipient of the 2013 Margaret A. Blanchard Doctoral Dissertation Prize this September for her dissertation on the struggles of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans during the Great Depression.
Melita Garza’s dissertation entitled, “They Came to Toil: New Frames of Wanted and Unwanted Mexicans in the Great Depression,” focuses on the struggles of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans during the 1930s. During the Great Depression, Mexicans were sent to Mexico as a result of the United States' economic collapse. Garza collected various articles from Hispanic papers for her dissertation and discovered that the issues that the Mexicans faced were not well known to most of the country.
Garza said she wanted her work to illuminate the fact that there is more than one side to every story.
Garza said she found inspiration for her dissertation on the lack of Spanish language media. “While studying media history in graduate school, I was struck by how 'American journalism' was almost exclusively presented in the [English] language," Garza said.
Garza said she wasn’t sure of her dissertation topic until she stumbled across a movie clip on YouTube one day that depicted a Mexican family from California during the time of the Great Depression. Much to Garza’s surprise, this video showed the deportation of people of Mexican decent that were U.S. citizens.
“I couldn't believe this had really happened," Garza said. "I decided to investigate and found that almost 500,000 Mexicans and Mexican Americans had been rounded up and removed from the country during the Great Depression."
Garza said that it was after watching that YouTube clip that she decided to understand how the media portrayed the removals in English and Spanish language news outlets in Texas, which is where most of the Mexican-American removals took place.
She said she hopes that her dissertation will prove how the news can impact people's interpretations of history and reality.
“I hope to show how the news narrative can shape reality — and omit important parts of it," Garza said. "Relying on English-language news alone won't give historians or readers the complete story. I want to highlight this episode of massive deportation and repatriation during the Great Depression as an example of invisible civil rights history. I want to show that we cannot fully understand civil rights unless we remove the blinders of the black-white race binary."
Before coming to the TCU Schieffer School of Journalism, Garza was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and worked for various publications such as Bloomberg News, McKinsey Quarterly, the Milwaukee Journal and the Chicago Tribune, where she spent most of her career.
Garza will be awarded by the American Journalism Historians Association Sept. 26 in Louisiana.