To “Serve the Cause of Universal Human Liberty”: Transnational Activist Rhetoric and the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893
Deeb, Anna Miriam Dudney
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Transnational and rhetorical theory scholars are increasingly concerned with how discourse travels across physical and cultural borders. Existing scholarship largely examines public address from a national context, which fails to account fully for all the potential forces that influence and shape rhetorical concepts. A transnational analytical approach attends to local, national, and global exchanges of information, goods, and ideas that shape and are shaped by discourse as it moves across borders. Through the lenses of transnational rhetorical theory and public address, this dissertation seeks to answer scholars’ call for greater attention to how rhetoric(s) track and change as they move across borders. In response, this dissertation examines African American activist discourse contemporaneous to the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The Exposition was a transnational and national event that reaffirmed and challenged discourses, such as American nationalism, that served to liberate and oppress people. The analysis engages three cases of activist rhetoric to better understand how the Exposition’s transnational setting and related transnational advocacy networks provided resources for rhetorical invention. The introduction provides a theoretical and contextual overview to ground the study, and then the analysis proceeds in three parts that examine Frederick Douglass’s public address at the Exposition’s Haitian Pavilion, six African American speakers in the Exposition’s Women’s Congress, and Ida B. Wells’s antilynching newspaper dispatches that she wrote shortly after the Exposition and sent to the Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean from England. The conclusion finds that rhetors engaged both transnational rhetorical strategies and transnational settings to advance their rights claims within their own nation. This dissertation contributes to transnational rhetorical scholarship and public address with findings of how rhetors accessed and engaged resources beyond borders for the national goal of increasing civil rights for African Americans.