Date of Award

5-1-2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Communication Studies

First Advisor

Daughton, Suzanne

Abstract

In this dissertation, I build upon the findings and theories of communication scholars who have studied Black women’s rhetoric, in addition to Collins’s (2009) theory of Black feminist thought (BFT), to create a nuanced conceptualization of African-American women’s social justice rhetoric. I first identify and explain relevant contextual literatures that aid in my understanding of Black women’s rhetoric. I then situate my analysis of Black women’s rhetoric within two theoretical frameworks, BFT and feminist rhetorical theory. Rhetorical criticism, through which I analyze the social justice discourse of African-American women, constitutes my method of analysis. The artifacts for this study are 12 speeches by six African-American women (Tanya Fields, Loretta Ross, Fania Davis, Charlene Carruthers, Angela Davis, and Aishah Shahidah Simmons) who are both social justice activists and community organizers, in addition to transcripts from my interviews with four of the women (Loretta Ross, Fania Davis, Charlene Carruthers, and Aishah Shahidah Simmons). The results of my research include discussions of the effects of controlling images, or stereotypes specific to African-American women, on their speaking; the specific rhetorical devices and techniques used by Black women in their speech; and the role of identity in the rhetoric of the Black women included in my study.

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