This annotated bibliography on African American Rhetoric is constructed to provide an overview of key African American scholarship by African American scholars in rhetoric, writing, and composition. My hopes in writing these annotations is to understand the discussions in African American Rhetoric as a way to start formulating the common topoi within this subfield, identify the interstices, and develop my exigence when contributing to the literature.
Banks, Adam J. Digital Griots: African American Rhetoric in a Multimedia Age. SIU Press, 2011.
In this book, Adam Banks provides a reconceptualization of digital rhetorics with African Americans as participants in digit media and demonstrates cultural influences by representing the DJ as a storyteller (griot) within the black community. The DJ mixing of music is representative of the stylistic arrangements of argumentation that are present in writing (35). In other words, “The digital griot offers one such approach for the mix of roles, relationships, and rhetorical practices the scholar might engage” (36). The griot’s rhetorical strategy is building knowledge through rhetorical sequencing (50). Banks shares his resistance in participating in community literacy writing opportunities because of a concern that the explanatory process of his work, in a conforming context like grants, should not be confined by institutionalized practices. His resistance to grant writing lessened as he identified more with the value in building community using literacy. In continuing to use the griot, the griot builds community through identification with one’s audience and using the audience as co-creators in community texts. The preacher is also an example of a figure that uses rhetorical strategy, call and response, in which building community literacy norms is an interactive experience (51). In what Banks calls an “Afrofuturistic approach to activism and rhetorical performance,” he bridges the gap between past (old school) and present (young generation) ways of print, oral and digital literacies to pave the way for new narratives in African American rhetoric, and shows how literacies have transformed across generations (87). Remixing the opposing perspectives of these two generations is Banks’ method of convergence to create new African American literacies that close a community divide.
Brock, André. “‘Who Do You Think You Are?’: Race, Representation, and Cultural Rhetorics in Online Spaces.” Poroi, vol. 6, no. 1, July 2009, pp. 15–35. DOI.org (Crossref), doi:10.13008/2151-2957.1013.
In this article, Brock questions the source of the turmoil with Black identity that Black people face within educational institutions. Is the performance of blackness or the disavowal of blackness driven by “stereotypes,” “interiority,” or “exteriority”? Some forces challenge Black identity, and Black people can find themselves performing within the dichotomy of “acting White” or acting as a “Super Nigga.” Conversations about Black identity that was once “private” or “commercial” are now pervasive with a broader audience afforded by the Internet, which has led to “the heterogeneity of Black identity formation while also demonstrating the discursive and rhetorical commonplaces of Black identity” (16). Brock examines “two online discourses on the intersection of Black and American identity” (16). The first example is a rhetorical analysis of a speech given by Kanye West “on behalf of Hurricane Katrina survivors,” ignited an online debate through Black blogs about the articulation of Blackness. The first example involves Rev. Lowery who was reprimanded with “racialized discourse” in Ta-Nehisi Coate’s Atlantic magazine blog. Both examples demonstrate how Black identity is interrogated in discursive spaces for blackness. “The paradox of constructing and embodied identity in a virtual space helps to open up an ontological consideration of racial identity—that it is a socially constructed artifact with more to do with social and cultural resources than with skin color” (32).
For future research of African American Rhetoric, this article provides an understanding that the African American identity is dynamic, and despite oppressive constructs of Black identity, the Black community is always challenging representations of its community to the public from within (a form of community self-management).
Browne, Simone. Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness. Duke University Press, 2015.
In this book, Simone Browne provides context for the surveillance of Black people by opening with the story of Frantz Fanon, scholar and activist. Frantz Fanon was a threat to governments international for calling out the racism against Black people. According to Browne, Fanon under the care of NIH, died of cancer, and the FBI was not forthright with any records of his existence. Browne examines in the book the declassified documentation he was able to receive from the FBI. Browne outlines methods used to racialize surveillance from slavery (e.g. runaway slave advertisements). Other forms of surveillance imparted by Browne are “the Book of Negroes [, which] is an early imprint of how the body comes to be understood as a means of identification and tracking by the state (70); lantern laws; tracking, and branding as biometric technology. Finally, Brown shares stories of Black women racially profiled by TSA at the airport (e.g. checking Black women’s hair).
Césaire, Aimé. Discourse on Colonialism. NYU Press, 2001.
In Césaire, Aimé’s essay, “Discourse on Colonialism,” Césaire describes the misfortune (“Europeanization”) and civilization disruption of the marginalized from Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia after coming in “contact” with Europeans. He focuses on the interaction between the colonizer and the colonized while demonstrating the difference between “colonization” and “civilization.” Césaire characterizes the horrors of colonization and the “lies” of the colonizers as barbarism, which is how the bourgeoisie framed those from African and other “colonized” countries. He disentangles the tropes that uphold marginalization. For example, Césaire presents what he calls the “dishonest equations Christianity = civilization, paganism savagery” (33).
For future research of African American Rhetoric, this selection illuminates the importance of defining “colonization” and foregrounding it in rhetorical work will help understand what is required for “dewesternization.”
Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Routledge, 2002.
In this book, Patricia Collins examines the convergence of knowledge and power relations. Based on the rhetorical situation, Collins also examines the dynamic relationship between Black feminism theory and African-American women’s activism. Collins discusses the social construction of the Black feminist, and she provides background information on the contributions Maria Stewart made to Black feminism and Black women’s relationships in the U.S. and spearheaded activism. Collins historicizes the oppression of Black women since slavery and the pervasiveness of inequality. Black feminist thought contributes towards the empowerment of Black women through social justice (22). Collin also includes seven common topoi of Black feminist thought that are resultant in the exploitation of the Black female body. Finally, Collins focuses on the intersections of class, gender, and sexuality for Black women as elements that construct their oppression (228).
For understanding African American Rhetoric, this book provides context that helps me situate myself in my research as an African American woman and determine if incorporating Black feminist theories will help argue my future rhetorical work. This book also helps to put issues of intersectionality into perspective.
Dick, Hilary, and Kristina Wirtz. “Racializing Discourses.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, vol. 21, 2011, doi:10.1111/j.1548-1395.2011.01094.x.
In this special issue, Hilary Dick and Kristina Wirtz are interested in “covert” strategies of racializing discourse. Dick and Wirtz resolve that racializing discourse often occurs within common discourse topics in which “plausible deniability” and “color blindness” can be claimed to maintain a “post-racial” narrative—meanwhile reaffirming social disparities and segregation. On the one hand, white speakers are “resistant to recognizing” racializing discursive practices, and on the other hand, people of color are aware of “racializing effects” but struggle to articulate them. Dick and Wirtz resolve that exposing covert racialization requires exposing these discursive practices through recontextualization and historicizing discourse (E8, E9).
For research in African American Rhetoric, this helps with disentangling coded discourse to avoid perpetuating racializing discourse to develop decolonizing pedagogical practices.
Gilyard, Keith, and Adam J. Banks. On African-American Rhetoric. Routledge, 2018.
Gilyard and Banks foregrounding discussions about rhetorical theory using Molefi Kete Asante as a notable scholar in African American Rhetoric (Author of Rhetoric of Black Revolution (1969); The Voice of Black Rhetoric (1971); Language, Communication, and Rhetoric in Black America (1972); The Afrocentric Idea (1998); Race, Rhetoric, and Identity (2005); and Lynching Barack Obama (2016)). Gilyard and Banks discuss the achievements of African-American rhetors including Olaudah Equiano, David Walker, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and Malcolm X. Also, the main theories that make up African American Rhetoric are tracked based on their usage at colleges and universities. Next, Gilyard and Banks examine Black feminism that contains “four tropes: 1) the self-conscious verbal assertion of requisite Black female presence, 2) commentary about the exercise of a Black female voice speaking against male domination, 3) the ironic assertion of high-achieving Black womanhood, and 4) the positing of triple exploitation” (8). The work of Anna Julia Cooper, Zora Neale Hurston, and Alice Walker are featured. Lastly, Gilyard explores the relationship between technology and African American Rhetoric as well as the involvement of Africans in Twitter communication (Black Twitter).
Gilyard, Keith. Voices of the Self: A Study of Language Competence. Wayne State University Press, 1991.
In providing an autobiographical narrative as context, Keith Gilyard in this book, focuses on the language development of children until the first grade. Gilyard also discusses code-switching as a rhetorical strategy in his comparison of “Black English” and “Standard English.” Also, he reviews the linguistic and educational development of children until the third grade. I will likely not use this book for future research because it is mostly contextualized for primary school linguistic studies.
Greenbaum, Andrea. Insurrections: Approaches to Resistance in Composition Studies. SUNY Press, 2001.
This book is a collection of essays that focus on four themes of resistance. First, foundational definitions of resistance are expounded on by various scholars. Next, there is a focus on race and politics, which address the intersections of race and literacy embedded into composition pedagogy. Within this discussion, Keith Gilyard and Elaine Richardson’s essay, “Students’ Right to Possibility: Basic Writing and African American Rhetoric,” zeros in on African American Vernacular English (AAVE) being taught from 1996 to 1998 in the classroom. This essay incorporates a case study that advertised a basic writing class that used materials steeped in African discourse. The researcher was able to analyze the writing of 52 African American male and female students. The researcher discovered 15 common themes from the students’ writings.
II, Ronald L. Jackson, and Elaine B. Richardson. Understanding African American Rhetoric: Classical Origins to Contemporary Innovations. Routledge, 2014.
This book is a collection of essays that has six sections: “Classical Egyptian Origins of African American Rhetoric,” “Manifestations of African American Rhetoric and Orality,” “Politics of Defining African American Rhetoric,” “African American Rhetorical Analyses of Struggle and Resistance,” “Trends and Innovations in Analyzing Contemporary African American Rhetoric,” and “Visions for Research in African American Rhetoric” (xvii).
This book provides a historical context of rhetorical investigations as well as the relationship between rhetoric and orature. Also, there are discussions about the politics and definitions of African American rhetoric, and there is an analysis of the rhetorical implications of the African American struggle and resistance. Lastly, this book provides inventions that have come out of African American rhetorical inquiry.
Kim, Young Y., editor. The International Encyclopedia of Intercultural Communication. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2017. DOI.org (Crossref), doi:10.1002/9781118783665.
In the “Afrocentricity” chapter in this encyclopedia, Molefi Kete Asante provides orientation and history on the intellectual movement “Afrocentricity,” he developed. This “intellectual movement” is an endeavor to mentally relocate Africans because Africans were “off-centered” since “enslavement and colonization.” There are three phases of the Afrocentricity movement: (1) “transformative consciousness,” (2) “classical grounding,” and (3) “strategic expansion.” Out of the third phase emerged Afrocentricity International (IA) the first “global African organization devoted to the United States of Africa, reparations, education, spirituality, and economic development” (2). Asante’s Afrocentricity challenges the language we use—“culturally deprived,” “minority,” “disadvantaged,” and “marginalized” (2). Afrocentric requires one to be aware that “centering” (the pulling away from colonist ways of thinking) is necessary to counter-hegemonic rationalities. Asante outlines five characteristics of the Afrocentric approach: (1) categorizing all “symbols, motifs, rituals, and signs “as Euro-, Asia-, or Afrocentric, (2) identifying the role of Africa or Africans in all institutions (or situations), (3) defending African culture with a valid understanding/knowledge of African history, (4) committing to using non-oppressive language and maintaining centeredness, and (5) correcting negative texts about Africans as a “reformative, process of education” (9-10). Afrocentricity starts with the centering of the mind to positively reinforce what is African according to African history in order to decolonize African minds globally.
For research in African American Rhetoric, I am interested in taking up the call to understand African history as an epistemological approach to be an “activist intellectual” so I will endeavor to gain more African history to pursue work in African American Rhetoric.
Kynard, Carmen. "Teaching While Black: Witnessing Disciplinary Whiteness, Racial Violence, and Race-Management." Literacy in Composition Studies [Online], 3.1 (2015): 1-20. Web. 4 Dec. 2019
In this article, Carmen Kynard contextualizes the oppression by black faculty amongst their white counterparts. Kynard challenges that racism in academia needs to be addressed. Otherwise, the oppressed may find themselves complicit in perpetuating racism. Kynard claims that oppression is overt because “oppression could never work if it were invisible, unarticulated, or unfelt by those it targets” (3). Kynard further establishes her point through a history of Phyllis Wheatly who in 1772, had to “defend her authorship in a Boston court” (3) and a teaching narrative to demonstrate daily encounters of racism while interacting with students.
Kynard, Carmen. Vernacular Insurrections: Race, Black Protest, and the New Century in Composition-Literacies Studies. SUNY Press, 2013.
In this book, Carmen Kynard combines composition studies and literacy studies to locate events that have not been included in composition-literacies theories. Kynard’s research includes “education history, secondary education, critical race theory, first-year writing, Africana studies, African American cultural theory, cultural materialism narrative inquiry, and basic writing scholarship” (12). Kynard historicizes the literacy of African American students exhibited in protests at black colleges from 1920-1960. Through this encapsulation, Kynard demonstrates how the social turn influences the evolution of African American literary and rhetoric. The demands black students placed of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to adhere to education standards should be defined by the black community and not according to white supremacy. Kynard explains the danger of teaching students using what is considered academic norms reinforces social inequalities (66).
For future research in African American Rhetoric, this book provides awareness on how culture influences African American literacy. This awareness is a step in decolonizing pedagogical practices. Kynard dispels the notions of African Americans students as passive participants in their education and magnifies the contributions African Americans students make to not only their literacy but literacy in general.
Ore, Ersula J. Lynching: Violence, Rhetoric, and American Identity. Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2019.
In this book, Ersula Ore argues that lynching is a present “violent rhetorical performance” and that it is not an act of the past. Ore discusses lynching as a symbolic action because she believes that although we may not see lynching in the same “form” from the past, the act of lynching persists in “motive” or character. As she continues, we see that lynching was more focused on legitimizing white superiority and keeping nonwhites (blacks) in their “place” than it was about the notion of protecting America from black violence. For example, blacks were portrayed as subhuman and bestial in previous centuries, but Ore shows us through Ida Wells that whites enacted lynching due to fears about black prosperity and miscegenation as a threat to white civility—white public discourse often reported the lynched as having committed a crime or rape to show whites as upholding the law. Ore provides several examples through stories about blacks who were “murdered”/lynched at the hands of the “white mob,” and she also argues that lynching pedagogy reinforced white ideals through the use of grotesque lynching images. Lynching and its rhetorical impact have led to the construction of American identity and blacks (nonwhites) trying to determine ways to survive institutional racism. Lynching remains as the “culture” of the United States as it communicates who is the “model citizen” and that the country needs protection against violent blacks.
Pritchard, Eric Darnell. Fashioning Lives: Black Queers and the Politics of Literacy. SIU Press, 2017.
In this book, Eric Pritchard interviews Black LGBTQ people about their literacy narrative and their encounter with literacy in everyday spaces as it relates to their identities. Based on his research, he analyzed the impact of literacy normatives (28) on Black queer in each of these spaces, and how they were combatted with restorative narratives (33). Pritchard aims to open up the dialogue surrounding Black, queer, and literacy and issues a call to action to participate in social justice in support of Black queer. Pritchard brings awareness to the pervasiveness of US health, gender, and beauty standards that have infiltrated the Black LGBTQ digital community. We learn from Pritchard that other gay people marginalize individuals within the Black gay digital community in the digital LGBTQ communities by not possessing idealistic views on health, gender, and beauty. Pritchard explains that some LGBTQ people responded to comments, laced with literacy normatives, with restorative literacy. One of Pritchard's goals with this work is to open up dialogue and his research participants model what that can look like. He explicitly urges scholars, and the like, to consider their responsibility in the manifestation of literary normatives when he states, “language is a crucial element in resisting this violence, and as scholars of literacy, composition, and rhetoric we are especially skilled and thus charged with developing new and affirming existing practices that do the work of social justice” (251-252).
Richardson, Elaine B., and Ronald L. Jackson. African American Rhetoric(s): Interdisciplinary Perspectives. SIU Press, 2007.
African American Rhetorics provides foundational concepts from scholars in the field in the form of a collection of essays. This book historicizes and analyzes African American Rhetoric, as well as a discussion regarding future pedagogical practices and research in the field. This book interrogates where African American Rhetorics fits into cultural rhetorics to reaffirm scholars’ rhetorical inquiry. Also, “the essays…are an attempt to explore the development, meaning, themes, strategies, and arguments of African American rhetoric(s), as well as the connections of these to culture, rhetoric, poetics, composition, and literacy and among the same” (xv). The following two essays support my future work: “Modeling Orality: African American Rhetorical Practices and the Teaching of Writing” by Lena Ampadu (136) and “The Rhetoric of Democracy: Contracts, Declarations, and Bills of Sales” by Victoria Cliett (170). This book will help with foregrounding my research in African American Rhetorics.
Williams, Miriam F. From Black Codes to Recodification: Removing the Veil from Regulatory Writing. Baywood Pub, 2009.
In this book, Miriam Williams conducts three case studies using a cultural-studies approach to examine Texas regulations (the texts and writers) with African Americans as their audience. Williams examines the 1886 Texas Black Codes, plain language manuals for African American sharecroppers, regulatory writers, and audience of “contemporary” regulations along with focus-group findings. Williams develops a heuristic that can be used by regulatory writers considering African Americans are skeptical about the government. Williams finds discriminatory text by looking at the language, tone, and style of regulatory documents and finds the writers embed divisive text that marginalized people would not detect easily—a rhetorical strategy to maintain oppression. For future research in African American Rhetoric, I will consider this book’s approach and mine for regulatory and request for proposal (RFP) documents that I encountered while managing proposals in industry. I want to use their approach to find connections between my industry experience and research interests.
Young, Vershawn Ashanti, and Michelle Bachelor Robinson, eds. The Routledge Reader of African American Rhetoric: The Longue Durée of Black Voices. Routledge, 2018.
In the essay “Markings of an African Concept of Rhetoric,” Molefi Asante examines the root of African American rhetoric by first comparing the communication differences between African and Western cultures. Asante notes that because Western culture uses written communication, this gives way to a “written treatise on rhetoric,” but African culture possesses other forms of communication. Asante states, “By the nature of traditional African philosophy, rhetoric in African society is an architectonic functioning art continuously fashioning the lives and attitudes of the people” (12). For African society, there is an emphasis on spoken word or public discourse, which gives words power and makes naming a creative art. This text provides an understanding of cultural practices that inform African American rhetoric and emphasizes the work that still needs to be done to establish African rhetoric.