Fitzmaurice, Megan Irene
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This thesis puts forward a rhetorical investigation of the visual and racial politics at play in Washington, DC’s commemorative formations. Specifically, this thesis looks to the Capitol Rotunda, National Statuary Hall, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in order to understand how three major forms of racism—institutional, symbolic, and postracial—shape and are shaped by these formations. A theory of visual silence helps to expose how and in what forms such racism works to simultaneously invoke and suppress the visual voice of African Americans in the nation’s most honored spaces. Visual silence reveals that while African Americans have played an integral role in shaping civic life and national identity in the United States, because we cannot visualize their voices in the same tangible ways in which white Americans are portrayed in the country’s commemorative spaces, their history, achievement, and significance are nearly silenced from the national narrative.