English Language and Literature ETDs


Lindsey Ives

Publication Date



This dissertation examines the role of whiteness and its relationship to identification in rhetorical representations of the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. Texts examined at length include recruitment materials, media coverage, pamphlets, and letters produced during the project, as well as retrospective representations of Freedom Summer in popular films and literature. Drawing upon Walter Beales pragmatic theory of rhetoric and Krista Ratcliffe's concept of rhetorical listening, it analyzes five perspectives on the hundreds of volunteers, most of whom were white college students, who traveled to black communities across Mississippi that summer in order to register voters, teach in Freedom Schools, work in community centers, and engage in other special projects. Analyzing the perspectives of white volunteers, black activists, white southerners, national media, and history, this dissertation reveals that the volunteers are variously constructed as admiring outsiders, neo-abolitionists, pseudo-scientists, community members, critical pedagogues, cherished children of the privileged classes, communist invaders, soldiers, missionaries, inconsequential extras, and catalysts for critical reflection. It concludes by suggesting ways in which contemporary teachers of rhetoric and composition might use selected Freedom Summer texts in the classroom in order to generate conversations about topics such as community engagement, interracial advocacy, and college students' writerly agency.'

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Advisor

Kells, Michelle Hall

First Committee Member (Chair)

Matthews, Kadeshia L.

Second Committee Member

Paine, Chuck

Third Committee Member

Martin, Jamal

Fourth Committee Member

Ratcliffe, Krista




Rhetoric, Freedom Summer, Civil Rights, Genre, Whiteness

Document Type