My Book: Vernacular Insurrections

Book Cover

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Vernacular Insurrections: Race, Black Protest, and the New Century in Compositon-Literacies Studies is my first book. I am attempting to locate literacy in the 21st century as and at the onset of new thematic and disciplinary imperatives brought into effect by Black Freedom Movements.  In this way, the relationships between composition studies, new literacies studies, and Black Freedom Movements can delineate breakthroughs and remaining cognitive closures surrounding the continued color line in language and literacy education.  College composition is placed into a hotly contested battleground since and because of the Civil Rights Movement, an issue widely agreed upon by compositionists but not taken up by those outside of composition-rhetoric studies as an important lens into race and hegemony in higher education.

With a subjectively-driven, narrative inquiry, I want to resurrect events that have vanished from the site of composition-literacies theories and represent these flashes of the past as vernacular insurrections.  Written in what might be called a cross-amalgamation of many styles and registers, the book borrows from educational history, critical race theory, first-year writing studies, Africana studies, African American cultural theory, cultural materialism, narrative inquiry, and basic writing scholarship.  Connections between social justice, language rights, and new literacies are uncovered from the vantage point of a multi-racial, multi-ethnic Civil Rights Movement that remains the most protracted struggle for equality that the United States has seen.

I want to show that theories and practices related to literacy in the 21st century and college composition represent much more than new technologies or events marked by the year 2000.  We must begin to see how a series of vernacular insurrections— protests and new ideologies shaped inside and because of Black Freedom Movements— have shaped our imaginations, practices, and research of how literacy works in our lives and schools.  I hope that this book opens us up to thinking about Black Freedom as a 21st century literacy movement.

The young protester's sign reads: "I have lost four years of 'education.' 'Why five?'  ('Let's tell Russia about this')."  These young black students were protesting the school closings that resulted from mandated integration in Prince Edward County.

The young protester’s sign reads: “I have lost four years of ‘education.’ ‘Why five?’ (‘Let’s tell Russia about this’).”

The cover photo on the book represents a 1963 Civil Rights Protest by students in Farmville, VA, originally printed in the Richmond-Times Dispatch.  These young black students were protesting the school closings that resulted from mandated integration in Prince Edward County. For further reading: Robert Collins Smith’s They Closed Their Schools: Prince Edward County, Virginia, 1951-1964 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1965).


ReaderThe Routledge Reader of African American Rhetoric by Vershawn Young, Michelle Bachelor Robinson, and Carmen Kynard is a comprehensive compendium of primary texts, including dialogues, creative works, critical articles, essays, folklore, interviews, news stories, raps, and speeches performed or written by African Americans. The texts collected here speak directly to the artistic, cultural, economic, social, and political condition of African Americans from the beginnings of the Americas to the present. Creative and imaginative texts that are educative, didactic, argumentative, and/or persuasive in nature, will also be included.  Our book is unique in that it seeks to front primary texts and represent African American rhetoric and rhetorical practices as both a disciplinary and everyday cultural practice.    The book is divided into eleven thematic sections, with each section having one or two section editors. The selections within each section are arranged both chronologically and by issue/debate in that period. We are interested in the context of the writings in order to ascertain “the available means of persuasion”, that is, how and why the authors construct their views and arguments in the way that they do.

The book is currently contracted and is in its final stages of preparation.