Social Histories Project Notes #2

December 4, 2007

Hi All,

I am reading for various projects, with the hope of providing more social and historical context.  Within my reading, I found a very interesting fact that seemed to be “understated” when we visited Seneca Falls, or either I missed it.  This also goes back to a conversation that I had with Eileen concerning some noted African American figures of that time.  I was surprised that I was able to find that some African American individuals of that time came in contact on their speaking tours.  I told Eileen that, in my mind, the efforts of African Americans and Whites of that time were separate.  This goes back to my earliest childhood teachings and readings; but to the life of me, I was unable to verbalize to Eileen why that was. 

In my mind, I am able to compartmentalize the figures when it is related to the abolition and equal rights movements of the 19th century.  I will agree that there was limited “membership overlaps” within both the black and white abolition and equal rights groups, but such overlap was not the norm at that time due to racial constraints and prejudices.  Most historical accounts do not seem to relate this fact, but it is true that they seem to only relate the “same” “few” “most recognized” black names.  But it is clear to me that the efforts, on both fronts, were began by African American females prior to the efforts of White females, who later joined with African American men, to push thier own agendas.

In Shirley J. Yee’s _Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860_, she asserts that there were no black women in attendance at the first Women’s Rights convention in Seneca Falls (1848).  She further explains, and is back up by my other readings and breifly stated in the Bacon book, that 18th and 19th century African American women were forced to start their own Women’s Rights and Aboltionists/Aid Societies.  “By the 1850’s, the effort by many white feminists to dissociate women’s rights from antislavery was self evident.  Discouraging black women from participating with white women in the movement was not difficult, because white feminist had ignored the concerns of black women from the beginning” (139-140).  Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, “She,” and a “handful” of other African Americans were among the few who participated in predominantly white meetings.

On the abolition front:  “While white women fought for female equality in predominantly white antislavery organizations, black women abolitionists campaigned for equal rights within the context of organized black abolitionism” (151).  “Black women had been involved in organized antislavery since February 1832, when a group of “females of color” in Salem, Massachusetts formed the first women’s antislavery society in the United States, the Female Anti-Slavery Society of Salem, just one year after the emergence of Garrison and the establishment of the New England Anti-Slavery Society as the regional parent organization” (87). The FASS of Salem preceeded other African American Female groups, established between 1833-1860, such as Juvenile Anti-Slavery Society of Salem, the Female Colored Union Society of Nantucket, the Union Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester, the Female Wesleyan Anti-Slavery Society of the Methodist Episcople Church of NYC, and the Ladies’ New York Antislavery Society of Manhatten (88).  The aims of African American females were for the push of “self-help” and the uplift of the people.  Yet, figures like Maria Stewart, the Grimke’ sisters, Mary Shadd, Frances Harper, and other African American women worked, spoke, preached, taught, and provided aid through black organizations.

 All of this information make me say, “Hmmmm . . .”  The display of the life-size figures at the Women’s Rights Museum makes sense to me now.  As I said before, I was bothered by the “ommissions” of African American figures, males and females, that were not on display that I hold to be important to both 19th century movements.


Social Histories Project Notes #1

November 29, 2007

Hi All,

I struggled to decide how to present this information.  After going back and forth, I settled on this forum.  My journey over the past few weeks has been both distractions and joys.  You know I’m all about the retorical hunt.  I had a small nibble of interest for a search in the NYC area.  From some of my reading, I found that “She” had a personal relationship with Lydia Maria Child.  Both names were mentioned in connection to a very important artifact.  Since the Baca Lecture I thought it would be great if I could anchor my research around an artifact.  It would be great if that were possible, to think such an artifact could have survived for so long and needed its proper placement within Social History.  So I wanted to know more about Lydia Maria Child.  I was thinking that maybe from the Child connection, it would lead me to more evidence.

If my research of Child, I found that she had a small personal collection in NYC at Columbia University.  I was so excited.  If you will remember, I was in NYC at the time for NCTE.  So I thought, what could it hurt?  After my online search and a call to C.U., it led me to the archives at Columbia University.  In its Rare Books and Manuscripts Collection, there is a small collection of papers for Lydia Maria Child.  The librarian said that it was one box.  I didn’t believe that I could get to C.U. because I had meetings, so the librarian agreed to pull the box from storage and hold it for me.  I know, I could have asked her to go through the box.  But it was clear from our call that she had very little archival research experience and would most likely be the only one available before the holiday. 

The next week, I returned to NYC on Wednesday before CU’s closing for Thankgiving Break.  I was hopeful.  Due to my train schedule and its short delay, along with trying to catch the subway to CU once I arrived in NYC, I had less than an hour to go through the box.  From my quick search, the box held no jewel for my current project.  But it did give me an idea for another project that I can do in the future.   I was able to find the Child information through another source.

Reading for my project:

I just finish reading Elaine Richardson’s chapter: “Black/Folk/Disoursez,” which gives an overview of Black and African American Vernacular Discourses, and I’m currently reading Geneva Smitherman’s _Talkin and Testifyin: The Language of Black America_.  I can’t say enough about this book.  Smitherman not only gives the historical relevance for Black Enlish, she also gives the cultural/social and linguistically importance of the language.  It has also given me ideas for WRT 205. 

Smitherman stated, “As slaves became more American and less African, the Black English Creole also became less Africanized.  It began to be leveled out in the direction of White English and to lose its distinctive African structrual features–that is, the Black English Creole became de-creolized.  This process was undoubtedly quite intense and extensive during the Abolitionist period and certainly following Emancipation” (11).  Smitherman’s publication will directly aid my project.

Morris, Charles E. (III). Queering Public Address: The Rhetoric of Intersectionality.

November 15, 2007



Lorraine Hansberry was one the most noted African American females of her time, author of Raisin in the Sun.  Prior to her 1965 death, few would have linked the 1957 Letters to the Ladder to Hansberry.  She lived her life as a “closeted” sexual person and “passed” as a heterosexual female, married to.  On the other hand, Lisbeth Lipari evaluates the “discursive construction of Lorraine Hansberry, who, while widely regarded as a signifier for racial justice for close to fifty years, was not constructed as a queer signifier until after her death in 1965.  Around 1976, Barbar Grier, the former editor of the lesbian periodical the Ladder, “publicly identified Hansberry as the author of two public letters published in the Letters in 1957” (220).  “Three years later in a 1979 special issue of Freedomways dedicated to Hansberry, the lesbian poet and critic Adrienne Rich referred to the letters as a critical interrogation of the silences surrounding Hansberry and her work” (221).


Lipari’s essay is not a search for Lorraine Hansberry’s identity, but it is “to deepen our understanding of Hansberry’s rhetorical vision and her commitments to social and political transformation” (221).  Lipari suggests that Hansberry had not received attention related to her position “as a public rhetor.”  Hansberry has not received considers as a “public intellect” and is marginalized.  “Documenting the omission of black lesbian writers in many anthologies of black women’s criticism and literature such as those Wallace, Washington, and hooks, Cheryl Clark writes, “Black bourgeois female intellectuals practice homophobia by omission more often than rabid homophobia” (223).


“In fact, Hansberry took on an astonishing range of political issues, all inflected with an intersection perspective, including racism, colonialism, sexism, capitalism, heterosexism, and black nationalism” (224).  Lipari provides an analysis of the two letters which were published with the “initials L.H.N, Yew York, and the August letter signed simply L.N., New York” (229).  Hansberry’s public voice was constrained and did not address her true “self.”  Yet, Lipari provides a historical rhetorical assessment of the letters and their implications of the public and private individual.  “Although Hansberry does not take up the issue of lesbian assimilation elsewhere in her published writing, she does acknowledge briefly in her August letter a June Ladder essay on “Transvestism,” which deepens the political analysis Hansberry had begun” (235).


“Thus, while valuable, the contributions of critical historiography that appropriately destabilize notions of the mythic individual are misappropriated when used to further erase or silence the contributions of marginalized speakers. . . . To affirm the contingency of the term “lesbian” in this case would be to recognize the complexity of Hansberry’s historicity as both a rhetor witnessing political persecution and as a person of history experiencing it” (241-242). 

B. M. Calafell. “Pro(re-)claiming Loss: A Performance Pilgrimage in Search of Malintzin Tenepal.”

November 5, 2007


Bernadette Marie Calefell’s “performance ethnography” recounts her cultural and historical search of Malintzin Tenepal.  As outlined in “Pro (re-)claiming Loss,” Calafell soon recognized that her search for Malintzin was actually a personal journey in search of herself.  To know thyself through the embodiment of a (fore)”mother,” “sister,” and “lover,” Calefell realized that her cultural identity was not based upon the ownership of artifacts, her proximity to geographical locations, and could not be maintained through the love of another family member, but it was the embracing of all that is the Chicana membership by valuing the familial struggles and advancements and anticipating the future cultural goals of a people which shapes the individual, as seen through the representation of Malintzin Tenepal and personal growth.


What is interesting about the journey is that Calafell wanted to “pass” and “blend in” to obtain a closer identification to her culture.  It was not a rejection of who she is, but it was an increased desire to belong.  Through a lack of “proclaiming” and “reclaiming,” Calafell’s connections to her culture shifts based upon her geographical location.  She was perceived as being both “authentic” and “inauthentic” while in North Carolina, not quite “cultural” enough, from her use of the Spanish language and her skin complexion.  Yet, she felt completely at home in Arizona because she had the “luxury” of not having to question her cultural affiliation based upon the historical significance of the area and not needing to feel that she needed to measure up because she was surrounded by love of her family.  On the other hand, Calafell does admit to cultural loss and did not answer the “whisperings” of Malintzin Tenepal.  “The voices whispering all along, were they hers? Were they mine or someone else’s?  The ghost of Malintzin Tenepal has been banging on my door again” (46).


Still Calafell identifies with Tenepal.  She dreamed, “Marina, I come to you now because, honestly, I see that you and I are in the same boat.  We have both lost our voices” (47).  Calafell traveled to Mexico in search of Tenepal and her sites of memory.  She found that Marina’s sites of memory were “destroyed” and/”unidentified” and silenced.  Malintzin had no “recognized” cultural home.  “The fact that Malintzin’s house remains unmarked and unendorsed again attests to the way that Malintzin is devalued in the writing of history” (48).


Calafell’s mission becomes one of “self-knowledge” and “possibilities.”  Although Tenepal is not “memorialized” the larger community, the individual journey is a “performance ethnography” that attempts to rewrite the master narrative that has overlooked her contributions to her people.  Calafell explained,


In this space, I create my own embodied understanding of my legacy, of my culture.  All along I had been mourning the loss of my voice, culture, and story not realizing that in this process, in this space of anticipation and finally in this space of reclamation and reconciliation through the traversing of my past, present, and future I have created a space of new possibilities, what Pollock terms a possible real.  The possibility of remaking in the performance of language and in this embodiment of history can be liberatory and intoxicating as it is the ultimate seduction. (51-52)


Calafell draws similarity between the “anticipation of possibility” of Chicano/a culture and “queer temporality.”  Recognizing that the Chicano/a people are like turtles, who carry their homes on their backs, I recognize many parallels within the African American culture, which is, by in large, people who are removed from an ancestral geographical identity of Africa, and people who must derive its cultural identity through self-recognition of “archetypes” and “jeremaids” of a positive people and their common goals.  The master narrative becomes less important, resulting in a “proclaiming” and “reclaiming” of a people.  Calafell said, “My intention is not to use this framework as if to suggest that those who employ a queer temporality have no history of their own, thus they must create history; rather I argue that dominant discourses do in fact include them in narrative, but in ways that marginalize them, do not privilege their experiences, or allow them to define those experiences” (52-53).


The author suggests using personal narratives and its “disidenticatory strategies” to disrupt the master narratives.  The Calafell’s article suggests that individuals may undertake recovery strategies of Social Histories of Rhetoric.  Individuals are able to perform the “rhetoric of pilgrimage,” “re-story history,” and “rewrite space” to a give back the voices of loss memories.  Calafell takes a cue from Erik Doxtader; she said, “I identify performative process or pilgrimage as a means of honoring identities in the making and alternative forms of advocacy (“Making Rhetorical History”)” (54).  The procedure is both “action” and “object.”  It is through this discovery of Malintzin Tenepal that Calafell finds a part of herself and a greater appreciation of her cultural identity.



“Activisim is an engagement with the hauntings of history, a dialogue between the memories of the past and the imaginings of the future manifested through the acts of our own present yearnings.  It is an encounter with the ghosts that reside within and inhabit the symbolic and geographic spaces that shape our worlds” (Rodriguez 37).

Brueggemann: Lend Me Your Ear: “On (Almost) Passing” Interlude 1

October 30, 2007


“On paper she didn’t sound deaf . . .” (98). 

Brenda Jo Brueggemann’s “On (Almost) Passing” is a revealing account of one woman’s journey of growth and reflection, as she embraces the many truths of her life that are illustrated through the use of mirror images of herself.  It is amazing to see how she negotiates her existence between the d/Deaf and h/Hearing worlds while navigating through varying degrees of silence.  Still it is important to note that when we think of mirrors, they throw back the “seen” physical representation.  But Brueggemann’s mirrors are in her ears and are influenced by her judgments, moods, intelligence, and realities.  This multi-level “self-evaluation” causes her to see the impossible demands of “passing,” or in her case, “almost passing.”


As a “hard-of-hearing- individual, she does not completely fit into the d/Deaf world and is isolated in the h/Hearing world, forced to rely on her husband and other hearing supporters.  By “passing” as a hearing individual, she was able to maintain a “likeness” of a hearing person, while not recognizing your own needs.  This attempt to belong was not so successful when trying to “pass” as a d/Deaf person.  Full membership into the d/Deaf community, and many others, require “successful” individuals to fully accept themselves and embrace their realities that are a reflection of individual passages.


I was most impressed that she likened her “almost passing” journey to “coming out,” “literate passing.” “. . . this place as the art and act of rhetoric,” “books are easier to control,” and “doing literacy.”  Brueggemann’s self-evaluations included not only the physical, but encompassed her negotiations with language and its usage.  Through her writing, and to a lesser degree talking, she was able to shape her roles in the h/Hear and d/Deaf communities.  As a way of passing, she found safety in talking because she did not have to listen, thereby holding off external judgments.  Writing allowed her created a closed environment of her choosing, where she had total control, absent of negative external factors.  She found safety in two arenas in which h/Hearing individuals may view as opposite spectrums:  safety in talking and silence.  Still, as a hard-of-hearing individual, for Brueggemann, both talking and silence provided the same reinforcement.  The h/Hear community would most likely argue that both cannot exist in the same space and product the same outcome.  Is this not an excellent example of the usage of rhetorical strategies and how one navigates personal encounters?


Brueggemann said that her talents of being a storyteller, writer, and talker allowed her to “pass” as being a member of the h/Hearing community and a member of the “The Deaf Way.” She notes that the creation of narratives, within the two cultures, has different approaches.  The “Deaf Way” narrative formation is shaped through the experience and user’s language abilities to recreate that experience.  On the other hand, the experience drives the narrative for the h/Hearing world, which is less dependent on the individual’s communication skills or the listeners.  Such passage navigations lead one to understand the “Gallaudet Meanness” and the lack of understanding from those who are not d/Deaf, as related by the desperate mother’s explanation of her daughter’s behavior in the chapter.  Brueggemann said, “When I get to feeling this way—trapped, nailed, stuck in between overwhelming options—I tend to get frantic, nervously energized, even mean. And my will to pass, to get through and beyond at all cost, kicks in ferociously” (93).   She finds strength in her circumstances and uses her strengths of writing to navigate her way.


“Writing is my passageway; writing is my pass; through writing, I pass” (99).


What are the rhetorical implications of the “Gallaudet Meanness?”


Can one say that from a hearing individual’s questioning Brueggemann’s “accent” or “nationality” was a way of normalizing the “otherness” of difference that may be displayed through d/Deafness?


Public Memory: Harriet Tubman House

October 23, 2007


The Harriet Tubman House is a lasting testimony of a woman who selflessly made 19 trips into the South, to escort slaves to freedom.  Harriet Tubman’s home is located at 180 South Street, Auburn, New York.  The historical site is maintained by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Connection, which purchased the property and are striving to fulfill Harriet Tubman’s dream.


The Tubman House is a visual representation of a time in United States history when the bravery and efforts of a few made a difference in the lives of African American slaves and freed blacks, in spite of legal and personal harms.  From a time capsule perspective, visitors are able to drive onto the grounds of the historical site and marvel at the restored house that was once the home and property of one of the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad. The entire twenty-six acres stretches further than the eyes can see.  However, even from the lush grounds and overgrown apple tree that surround the home and other original structure, it is amazing to consider and realize Harriet Tubman’s determination to purchase the property.  However, from historical accounts of Tubman’s financial difficulties, it seems unlikely that the picturesque version of the 2007 grounds and property was correct reality of the late nineteenth century.


Understanding the need to preserve social history sites, Christine Carter, the Tubman House Tour Coordinator, welcomes visitors into the Tubman Recreation Building, where two documentaries are offered to give guests an overview of Tubman’s accomplishments, service, and hardships.  A small gallery of oil painting, reprints, and newspaper clippings line the walls.  Not only do the images illustrate of Harriet Tubman’s life, but they include reprints of historic New York newspaper articles, illustrations of slave ships, “Bull Whip Days,” “Old Bay Tom, a former slave, well-known and much beloved citizens of Binghamton.  The multiple visual aids enable the guests to understand the urgency of Harriet Tubman’s life work, caring for those who were unable to care for themselves.


Upon entering the home, tour groups are transported back into history as they walk inside.  From the first floor, guests take in the period-piece furniture of the living room, which stages the room; are able to look into the downstairs bedroom, which contains furnishing that belong to Tubman; and are ushered through the kitchen and dining room, while given a historical lesson of household items used by Tubman and were popular during that period.  The second floor is closed to all visitors.  Due to lack of financial capital, all additional restorations are on hold until a suitable donation may be gained to complete the work.  The historical value of the Tubman House is not officially recognized by federal funding.  The Tubman House is sustained by dutiful individuals who see the importance of this recovered social history, which, at present, survives as an example of public memory.


Lindal Buchanan’s Regendering Delivery: The Fifth Canon and Antebellum Women Rhetors. Conclusion.

October 18, 2007


 Lindal Buchanan’s Regendering Delivery points out the assumptions that were made regarding the fifth canon:

  1. All rhetors are male
  2. Discourse evaluation only considered the speaker’s vocal performances and physical presentation
  3. Proper body position:  Males stood and faced their audience
  4. Social context was “overlooked.”

The identified “blindspots,” were a reflection of the larger social dynamics of the period, Buchanan called for a “Regendering” of the Fifth Canon.  Buchanan argued for the “total” rhetorical experience, which accounted for inclusive representations of women and other marginalized speakers; recognition of social, historical, cultural, and political constraints that influenced public address at a given time; and evaluation of the individual motivations of the speaker.  Traditional stage performances were not delivered in a vacuum, and antebellum women were a part of the rhetorical tradition.  Still, she points out that the rhetorical performances mirrored the internal and external biases that were in place beyond the stage.


Buchanan suggested a comprehensive social approach would open the rhetorical framework and give a complete picture of the rhetorical form.  “Delivery thus becomes a site for investigating the intersection of variables like gender, sexuality, race religion, nationality, ethnicity, age, class, or disability with power and discourse in particular settings, for what transpires on the public platform is simply a microcosm of larger social and ideological forces” (160).


Buchanan narrowed her scope to identify six “topos” that related to the antebellum female and the social context:

  1. Education:  Elocutionary instruction of women as defined by the social norms.  Regendering the Fifth Canon considered the education of antebellum women and the “reciprocal relationship” of public delivery
  2. Access to the Public platform:  Women were denied participation.  Regendering the Fifth Canon looked at when, where, and for what reason antebellum women were allowed to speak.
  3. Evaluation of space:  Evaluated Ownership of the public platform.
  4. Discursive Genre:  Considered strict delivery codes that restricted women.
  5. The Female Body:  Evaluation of the proper appearance of the female body in public.
  6. Social intersection of “gender,” “delivery,” and “power” that antebellum women encountered.

By presenting this view of the antebellum women, Buchanan hoped to encourage scholarly evaluations of the oratory practices of female rhetoricians.  She voiced the importance of considering gender, power, and social context for a comprehension understanding the antebellum women rhetors.  Buchanan said, “I throw open the doors and invite all interested scholars to enter the theoretical home afforded by the regendered fifth canon, confident that our examinations of delivery from multiple perspectives and through multiple lenses will ultimately make the classical canons, the rhetorical tradition, and the discipline itself more inclusive, pluralistic, and compelling” (163).