Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



In An African American Discourse Community in Black & White: The New Orleans Tribune, an archival study of the first black-owned daily newspaper in the United States, I argue that the newspaper rhetorically constructed a literate African American discourse community worthy of citizenship and equal political rights within the public sphere of Reconstruction United States. Although contemporaneous media in the South depicted blacks as both unable to read and write and as culturally illiterate, I demonstrate how articles across the lifespan of the Tribune represented, as well as encouraged and enabled, multiple literacies within the African American community. I ultimately argue that the newspaper created an identity as citizen for free and emancipated blacks alike through its inclusion of evidence of blacks’ education and knowledge of historical texts; black men’s economic and agricultural literacies and black women’s domestic skills; and the community’s understanding of civics. Scholars within periodical studies, who have focused primarily on Victorian Britain, have argued that periodicals provide a unique space for historically oppressed populations to enter public discourse. This project links literacy studies, periodical studies, and African American studies by extending this reasoning to the literacy practices of African Americans and by investigating how the staff of the New Orleans Tribune sought entrance to public discourse but also circulated a counterdiscourse that challenged dominant stereotypes of blacks. Simultaneously, this project questions how the lack of scholarly work on the Tribune, “the most important Negro newspaper of the Civil War era,” continues to remind researchers that the erasure of African American resistance and agency is not unique to Reconstruction, but is replicated through tellings of history and accessibility of archives within the academy today. An African American Discourse Community in Black & White: The New Orleans Tribune uses the newspaper to retell the history of African American literacy in Reconstruction New Orleans as one of agency and oppositionality. Ultimately, I argue that the Tribune used self-representations of blacks’ literacy practices to rhetorically construct an African American discourse community that was worthy of citizenship and therefore suffrage.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Weinstein, Susan D.