Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Sandra J Sarkela

Committee Member

Marina Levina

Committee Member

Andre E Johnson

Committee Member

Beverly Bond


The ascendance of Barack Obama prompted many news media outlets to proclaim the arrival of a post-racial twenty-first century. Although his presidency represents a milestone with regard to equlaity, Obama has been called to respond to exigencies that have manifested in the form of racial unrest on several occasions across his political career. This dissertation chronologically examines Obama's responses to events that have put racism or the perception of racial inequality on full display. It starts with an analysis of Obama's "A More Perfect Union" address, which followed the media firestorm surrounding Reverend Jeremiah Wright during the 2008 presidential campaign, and ends with Obama's eulogy for Clementa C. Pinckney in June of 2015 after the slaying of nine African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina. Using the theoretical constructs of Kenneth Burke, this dissertation examines the discourse of Obama through the lens of division. While most scholarship credits Obama for inclusive appeals that tie Americans to shared values, this dissertation argues that Obama establishes a sense of division when addressing issues that stem from racial unrest. By dividing listeners on the basis of their oppositional sentiment concerning racial inequality, Obama provides Americans a pedagogical tool to confront and interrogate their racial differences.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.