Christian Pippins, Texas A&M University – Texarkana

Black Women’s Rhetoric and the Civil Rights Movement

Abstract: The current #metoo movement is not the first time that women have spoken out against harassment, inequality, or injustice. The speeches of women like Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and Mamie Till Mobley remind us that women of earlier generations and civil rights movements have sacrificed and given their lives to the fight for justice and equality.  These women expressed themselves through their rhetorical ability, grassroots organizing, and song.  Recovering the voices of these black women forces a modern audience to confront why they have been forgotten or silenced while also considering the presence and treatment of diverse voices in the modern #metoo movement.  Bringing to light the rhetorical skill and ability of these women’s various performances and texts forces modern audiences to recognize that there is more rhetorical depth to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s than Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.  Modern civil rights movements can gain a sense of solidarity by hearing these women’s voices.  By hearing and examining the life and work of these women, a realization may come for modern civil rights movements: the women of earlier civil rights movements had a voice that needed to be heard and still needs to be heard.  Accountability is always at the forefront of any movement whether that movement is the midcentury civil rights movement or the #metoo movement.  The strength and sacrifice of these women reminds us that solidarity in the face of injustice means honoring and listening to many diverse voices.  These voices give each woman a place in history.

Presentation Author(s):
Christian Pippins*

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