Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Andre Johnson

Committee Member

Antonio de Velasco

Committee Member

D. Gray Matthews

Committee Member

Shelby Crosby


ABSTRACT Watkins, Dianna N. The University of Memphis. May, 2020. Daring to be Herself: Womanist Rhetorical Theory and Black Womens Presidential Campaign Announcement SpeechesMajor Professor: Andre E. Johnson, Ph.D.Black womens theoretical production has neither been consistently celebrated nor canonized within the academy; therefore, the primary focus of this dissertation is to establish a definition for womanist rhetorical theory in order to acknowledge Black womens voice as carrier of theory and persuasive prowess (Collins, 1998). Theorizing through rhetorician Kimberly Johnsons (2015) womanist rhetorical criticism, I build from Alice Walkers (1983) definition of womanism and ethicist Stacey Floyd-Thomas womanist tenets. These tenets are: radical subjectivity, critical engagement, traditional communalism, and redemptive self-love. The tenets help us not only conceptualize a trichotomous rhetorical triangle of Black womens discursive diary of tripartite oppression within the larger African Diasporic context, but also helps us develop a methodological pattern for understanding Black womens communicative acts. In order to do this, I explore the presidential campaign announcement speeches. of the late Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun, and Senator Kamala Harris. By analyzing the broader themes within these texts, I argue the womanist rhetor well understands her inability to craft a counterpublic for the public that rejected her voice, instead re-defining her own space. I work through movements demonstrating how the rhetor re-claims her voice; re-constructs rhetorical boundaries; re-imagines and re-constitutes her audience; and comes to voice by re-framing her epistemological privilege to love herself regardless. Overall, I contend this study allows Black women/womanist communication scholars to have, not only a theoretical frame of their own enterprise, but one that sings the song of possibilities highlighting her wit, wisdom, and words with an integrity of her own vision (Shange, 197).


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest