Complete Story


Summer 2021, 51.4, pages: 309-324

Amplification by Counterstory in the Quantitative Rhetoric of Ida B. Wells


Ida B. Wells uses what critical race theorists call counterstory to expose contradictions in majoritarian assumptions about race in her statistical rhetoric. By using rhetorically forceful characteristics of the African American Verbal Tradition in counterstories about the victims of lynching, Wells leverages embodiment and emotion to amplify statistics of lynching. This essay examines the rhetorical properties of different versions of statistics of Black victims of lynchings from 1883 to 1891 that Wells used in the early 1890s to show how Wells’s approach to amplification in quantitative rhetoric honors and advocates for the people that can make up a statistic.

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