Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Mattingly, Carol, 1945-

Author's Keywords

Public discourse; Louisville; Kentucky; Black schools; African-American


African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Louisville--History; Education--Kentucky--Louisville--History; Louisville Public Schools (Louisville, Ky.)--History; Literacy--Social aspects--Kentucky--Louisville--History


I conducted my dissertation research in the national, state, and local archives. Using Deborah Brandt's "Sponsors of Literacy" as a conceptual framework and Critical Race Theory as a theoretical framework, I offer Louisville, Kentucky as a historical case study for how an established and empowered community of free blacks can serve as a catalyst to bring about social and political change through the acquisition of literacy. This dissertation is divided into four chapters. Chapter One explains the scholarly context of my dissertation. I argue that post-emancipation African Americans had a sense of urgency for the acquisition of literacy, and that they were their own primary sponsors. Finally, I offer a review of the limited literature in this research area, an overview of my scholarly position, and a summary of the overall dissertation. Chapter Two contextualizes the development of African-American schools in Louisville, Kentucky. I offer a history of the emergence of public schools nationwide as a tool of assimilation. I also offer a discussion of Kentucky state legislative activity that hindered funding and postponed the opening of public schools for African Americans for more than 4 years statewide. I discuss ways in which rhetorical practices were used to victimize African-Americans who developed a funding plan to support schools for their own children while also contributing tax dollars to majority schools. Chapter Three offers Louisville as a historic case study. I argue that Louisville was a place with a unique set of circumstances that allowed for the development of an atypical African-American community. I argue that the acquisition of literacy permitted African-Americans in this community to exercise agency that spurred socio-economic change. I also argue that the newspaper was a powerful source of agency, and I juxtapose the self-report system in African-American newspapers with reports of African-American community activities in the publications of the majority. Finally, Chapter Four considers ways that this narrative contributes to scholarship in African-American studies, African-American literacy, African-African rhetoric, Rhetoric and Composition, and to some degree pedagogical practice.