Rigorously researched, exquisitely written, conceptually deft, and resource rich, this book examines Black women’s rhetorical ingenuity from the founding of the nation through the Black Club women’s movement. I marvel at the ways this book, in all its historical milieux, perfectly illustrates rhetoric’s singular role in unearthing the antidote to today’s most enduring questions around race, gender, citizenship, and nation.
In Making the World a Better Place, Royster argues that African American women must be taken seriously as historical actors who were more consistently and more variously engaged in community- and nation-building than they have been given credit for. Their considerable rhetorical expertise becomes evident when looking carefully at their work in terms of identity, agency, authority, and expressiveness. Their writings constitute a substantial artifactual record of their levels of engagement, their excellence in sociopolitical work, and the legacies of leadership and action. The writing of African American women during the nineteenth century reflects their own perceptions of the ways and means of their lives. They deserve to be recognized as consequential contributors to the narratives of the nation, rather than marginalized as a group. To that end, Jacqueline Jones Royster offers a deeper understanding, often through their own words, of these women, their practices, and their achievements.
This book combines rhetorical and intersectional analysis with feminist historiography to provide a more expansive picture of Black women’s lives and experiences and to challenge white nostalgia and mediated representations of Black womanhood. Moreover, it offers new evidence of how Black women’s social lives and everyday organizing led to fabulous feminist formations geared toward moving the nation closer in line with its governing principles and closer toward a future that sees and hears Black women.
Jacqueline Jones Royster is former Ivan Allen Jr. Chair in Liberal Arts and Technology and dean of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at the Georgia Institute of Technology and professor emerita at both The Ohio State University and Georgia Tech. Her research focuses on the intersections of the history of rhetoric, feminist studies, and cultural studies, with interests in the connections between human and civil rights, as well as in the digital humanities.She is the author of Traces of a Stream: Literacy and Social Change among African American Women and Southern Horrors and Other Writings: The Anti-lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, among other titles.