Complete Story

BACON, Jacqueline and MCCLISH, Glen

Fall 2000, pages 19-47

Reinventing the Master's Tools: Nineteenth-Century African-American Literary Societies of Philadephia and Rhetorical Education

Abstract: Antebellum African-American literary, societies in Philadelphia promoted rhetorical education and gave members the opportunity to craft powerful arguments. This study investigates the presence of the Anglo-American rhetorical tradition--particularly eighteenth-century Scots principles of Blair, Smith, and Campbell--in six representative speeches delivered at literary society meetings. Our analysis focuses on two major issues: l ) the influence of traditional principles of nineteenth-century universal rhetorical education on theory, and practice in these societies; and 2) the ways in which traditional principles were infused with new purposes; deployed for radical ends; and appropriated, reshaped, and reinvented in ways that transform and redefine nineteenth-century rhetorical practice.