Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Horner, Bruce M.


African Americans--Civil rights--History--20th century; Civil rights movements--History--20th century; African American college students--History--20th century


This dissertation is a multifaceted project. First, it is a historical work of subversion and revision designed to do two things: (1) apply pressure to trends in rhetoric and composition historiography that have left under-challenged a politics of representation that historically and systematically marked Black college students of the late sixties and early seventies as under-prepared, lacking in linguistic and rhetorical resources and agency, and politically militant yet academically apathetic; and (2) construct a more nuanced portrait of the writer agency of the Black college students of the late sixties and early seventies by examining the political writings of members of the Black Liberation Front International (BLFI), a Black-led undergraduate student organization at Michigan State University from 1969 to 1973. Second, this dissertation is an attempt to make use of the BLFI activists’ experiences with political literacy to inform and shape disciplinary pedagogical practice. This dissertation is divided into six chapters with a concluding Epilogue. Chapter One explains the impetus behind this project, establishes the BLFI activists’ political writing practices as the focus of this dissertation study, and introduces the analytic framework for this project. Chapter Two introduces the research methodology that guided this project. Chapters Three and Four reconstruct a comprehensive - though not exhaustive - portrait of the BLFI activists’ “traffic” experiences. Chapter Five presents the findings of my analysis of the strategies the BLFI activists adopted for their positional writing practices. Applying pressure to the politics of representation and trends in rhetoric and composition which have left this politics of representation under-challenged, I demonstrate the ways in which the BLFI activists negotiated and developed their literate practices to not only construct themselves politically on a subjective and organizational level, but also to intervene in campus and communal politics. Chapter Six continues my efforts to construct a more nuanced portrait of the BLFI activists’ writer agency by discussing the stylistic aspects of a language practice Chui Karega, the BLFI’s Minster of Information, adopted for an editorial he composed as editor-in-chief for the Mazungumzo Journal of African Studies. The Epilogue discusses the implications of and future work for this dissertation project.