TCU Civil Rights Bus Tour–Day Three

Charles McLaurin entered our small breakfast group the morning of March 8th and rotated around the group inconspicuously. Eventually I made my way to him and shook his hand. “You know,” he leaned in to tell me, “you and me couldn’t have been here in 1962. And if we were here, that would mean they were gonna hang the both of us.” So began the third day of the civil rights bus tour.

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McLaurin is a bit of a legend in the Mississippi Delta. He was a key member of the SNCC movement in the area and has been arrested over forty times in his life for agitating unjust laws and authorities. He had been a key supporter of Fannie Lou Hamer and was the field organizer who led much of the Freedom Summer registration in Sunflower County. Arguably, McLaurin is one of the most important civil rights leaders who is still living today, and it was a special honor to spend the day touring the civil rights history of the Delta with him.

Our bus drove through many small cities in the Delta today, including Ruleville, Greenville, Indianola, Drew, and Glendora. Instead of touching on each city I want to highlight a couple of important moments in the day that stood out.

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First, in Ruleville, we visited the Fannie Lou Hamer Garden and Museum. Compared to most other museums I have visited throughout my life, this place seemed much less fortunate. They didn’t have the funds to support the beautiful site that Hamer deserves, yet people in the community had still fought to have Hamer remembered. This made me realize how vital it is to have people fight for the local histories, especially when the state doesn’t explicitly support them. I felt a deeper desire to help certain museums financially and in any other capacity in my future.

But the funds the museum has raised helped memorialize the legacy of Hamer. Still to this day, you can see a twinkle in McLaurin’s eyes when he speaks of her, and as he and a curator guided us through the exhibit, I learned not only more on Hamer’s desire, but also the struggle involved in keeping her story alive. The museum also purchased a beautiful lot where Hamer is buried and built a monument to her honor there. The statue, showing Hamer in her favorite stance as an organizer, distinguishes itself from other statues. Together, seeing the history combined with local people’s efforts to maintain it, marks her museum and park as a special place that I will remember forever.

Next, we visited the museum for Emmett Till and also the small store where he was first accused of soliciting a white woman. The museum in the small town of Glendora is surrounded by the impoverished. All the houses in town are crumbling and have been left behind by modern society and state money. Yet, still this community support the Till museum in the old barn where he was actually tortured and murdered. Most amazingly at this site, the curators have constructed a coffin and a fake, disconfigured body that resembles the horrific shape of Till’s open casket funeral. It seems, rhetorically speaking, the museum fulfills the same purpose that Till’s mother wanted in having the open casket: they want visitors to feel that visceral, complex reaction in seeing the brutality of racism.

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Today taught me a lot on not just the history of civil rights but also the ways people keep memory alive. I see it in the fight for funds and grants, I see it in the unique placement of plaques and memorials, and I see it in the visual reminders of the harsh world around us. The Delta has to fight for their history. They do not have the national spotlight that places like Selma, Birmingham, and even Memphis do. Thus, the have to go through greater struggles and more hoops to remain an important part of history. Seeing how people like McLaurin and even local sites tell their stories gives me all the inspiration I need to keep researching how rhetorics of public memory affect histories and communities.

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Civil Rights Bus Tour– Day 2

Well, the wifi at our hotel is crummy, so I will be writing this post (and probably the next) from my phone. That probably means these will both be shorter because I really don’t want to write frommy phone.

Today was a long and tiring journey. We woke up and ate breakfast at the hotel and left for our first stop. Jackson is an interesting city. The downtown district and communities near Jackson State University shows how impoverished the city and state are. On one street we drove down today, we literally saw ten total houses that were all abandoned and decaying. These streets once held a vibrant a black community and we’re one of the homes of the modern civil rights struggle. Yet these failing infrastructures reminded me of how quick we are able to forget our roots. 

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We stopped on the edge of Jackson State University at was once the home of COFO. COFO was the group formed by SNCC, NAACP, SCLC, and CORE, and was pioneered by Bob Moses in Mississippi. Today we met Keith McMillan who is the COFO headquarters curator. He began by telling the history of the movement and the building. Most interesting to me was that the state of Mississippi didn’t even recognize the site with a historical marker until 2011.

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Once we finished our quick discussion, we took the short walk to the Jackson Masonic Lodge, which also housed (and still houses) the NAACP during the 1960s. Here we met Frank Figures, a local historian, who filled us in on the history of the building and it’s importance in the movement. We were actually standing in a site where the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party organized caucuses, where Medgar Evers ran the local movement, and where Freedom Riders had lessons in the early 1960s. Remarkably the bullet holes that had been shot into the NAACP offices in the 1960s, more than five of them, still remained reminders of the town’s tragic history.

Once we left the lodge, we headed back to COFO and talked to two local legends: Flonzie Brown Wright and Hollis Watkins. Both of these people had been a part of the movement in the 1960s and had stayed in the area afterwards to keep up the good fight. Most interstingly both of them were stark contrasts of the nonviolent leaders we imagine: both carried weapons and were not afraid to use them in defense. Wright even stated that she believed the whole nonviolence stance on national level was only pragmatic, most local people actually would resort to violence if push came to shove.

We finished our meeting with these two legends by singing a few liberation hymns, and Watkins led the charge in getting us involved in harmonizing. After a quick lunch in the office, we headed out on a more thorough tour of Jackson. First, we took in the Jackson State Tragedy memorial on campus. The tragedy parallels the Kent State killings, and these two events were only eleven days apart. Here, two black students were murdered (supposedly by police) and eleven were injured on campus. The crime was never solved. Again, the state of Mississippi only put up a plaque to honor these students in 2009 or 2010.

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In our last big stop for the day, we visited Medgar Evers house, the location he was shot and killed in the early-1960s, which sparked much of the civil rights movement in Mississippi. The home is now a museum, and we were able to walk through the home and still see the bullet hole from the shot that killed Evers. The visceral effect of being in the place we’re a man died for a cause was unnerving. I felt moved but also helpless. But overall, I couldn’t help but think that Evers life meant something. In dying, he became a martyr, one who has evolved into a legend in local lore.

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The day ended with a dinner on our way to Indianola. We got to the hotel at 9 and will be travelling through the Delta the next two days.

I will be posting more on our trip in the upcoming days and hope you continue to track our journey together. Thanks!


Civil Rights Bus Tour– Day One

“People ask me why I go after these old murderers in the KKK, years after their crimes,” Jerry Mitchell told a crowded room of TCU students tonight in Jackson, Mississippi. The audience was silent. “These are young killers, I tell them. They just happen to get old.”


Today marked the first leg of TCU’s civil rights bus tour through the Mississippi Delta, Memphis, and Little Rock. We left Fort Worth this morning at 9:00 am heading east and didn’t stop until we made it to Ruston, Louisiana, only a few hours out from Jackson. While Ruston was not on our scenic tour in the South, I learned from my colleagues about its history. In 1938, a 19 year-old black boy, R.C. Williams, was lynched. As the town mob burned him to death, they actually put out the flames for a moment so they could get his fingerprints. Then they re-lit the fire and murdered Williams. The story of Williams illustrates the utter ignorance of racial hatred, the idea that a mob found a man guilty without giving him a fair trial, and while killing him decide it might be best to get his fingerprints. This story, while not even an actual historical moment on our stop, sheds light on the work we are doing as a class. We are digging up old bones, histories people want to forget. And as we keep digging under new rocks, we keep finding more and more bones.

After lunch in Ruston, we made it into Jackson around 4:30 pm, giving us just enough time to get some rest before leaving for dinner at 5:30. Though I was tired after the long trip, I was interested in having our dinner with Jerry Mitchell. Reading his biography on our trip taught me that he had uncovered truths about infamous KKK murders, leading to high-profile arrests and murder convictions decades after the slayings in the 1960s. We left for dinner in northern Jackson at Sal and Mookie’s. The pizza was delicious but even more incredible was meeting Jerry Mitchell.


Mitchell, a fifty-five year-old reporter in Jackson, has had an incredible life. In 1989, he watched the film Mississippi Burning that sparked a desire in him. Mitchell wanted to actually investigate who committed some of these murders and atrocities in the Civil Rights South. First, he was able to investigate one Klansman for the murder of Medgar Evers in Mississippi. Next he put a KKK leader, Sam Bowers, behind bars for his involvement in the bombing of Vernon Dahmer. More recently, he has helped convict Bobby Cherry and Edgar Ray Killen for their crimes in the Birmingham church bombing and the murders of the three civil rights workers outside of Philadelphia, Mississippi.

His work garnered him a Pulitzer Prize in Journalism and a MacArthur “Genius Grant” as well. In his speech to TCU students tonight, Mitchell attributed his success to his own desire for truth. Truth is what can lead us to reconciliation. Truth is not just acknowledging history but making it matter. Truth is taking these “old KKK murders” and making them pay for the crimes they committed decades ago. Even when faced with multitudes of death threats and slurs, Mitchell states that he tries to live fearlessly. “Living fearlessly doesn’t mean not having fear,” he told us. “Rather, it is knowing that you are doing something greater than yourself.” The fear only lets him know that he is on the right path.

Mitchell was a fascinating person to talk to on our bus trip and was a wonderful person to end our first day. Although we did more traveling and less site-seeing, he inspired many of the students in his talk. On the bus heading home, everyone was discussing what he said, how he affected them personally, and how his talk applies to their understanding of civil rights. I have similar a feeling. My dissertation studies why a white preacher (Charles Moore) in my hometown of Grand Saline, TX decided to self-immolate on a summer day in 2014. The preacher claimed the town was racist and he wanted them reconcile their history with their present, to move past their old biases. The town rejected his claim outright.

But truth…truth matters.

Truth matters enough to Mitchell that he has dedicated his life over the past twenty-five years to investigating KKK crimes against black people in South. Truth matters to Charles Moore and his commitment to self-immolating in hopes that it could bring some form of justice. Truth matters to me too, and that is why I believe my dissertation is so engrained in my identity. Truth is all I can ever hope for.

At the end of the evening, I told Mitchell about my work, and he graciously gave me his card and told him to email him information about the case. I am thankful that he would even consider talking with me about my work, but it also provided me with my own “truth” for the evening: people like Mitchell will always want to lend an extra hand because they understand how valuable and pertinent the hard fight for the truth is.


That wraps up the first day for our TCU trip. I hope to post again tomorrow. Please feel free to share this with your friends and family and follow our journey along the rest of the way!

Civil Rights Bus Tour- Day Zero

On Sunday, March 6th, I am leaving on a six day, five night bus tour through the Mississippi Delta, Memphis, and Little Rock. The tour is a part of Max Krochmal and Emily Farris’ co-taught class, “The Civil Rights Movement.” Max, a History professor at Texas Christian University, and Emily, a Political Science professor there, teamed together to form this class, though Max has taught this class and had a bus tour for multiple years now. I signed up for this class a doctoral candidate in Rhetoric and Composition because I have interests in the civil rights history and have researched much of the Chicano/a Civil Rights movement (and the United Farm Workers). As a scholar, I want to know more about the civil rights movement, and I feel my high school experience (as many other high school experiences) did not give me the history I deserved. Since I am interested in public memory, and the civil rights movement is one of the most mythologized social movements and moments in American history, I knew I needed this class. And fortunately for me, TCU generously paid for my tuition and the bus tour costs as well.

First, before we move forward, let’s take a look at our itinerary:

Time Topic/Destination  
Sunday Night Trip beginning & Dinner with Jerry Mitchell, reporter for the Clarion-Ledger  
Monday Morning COFO Headquarters and Jackson State walking tour (John R. Lynch Street Walking Tour (Masonic Temple, Gallery1, Gibbs-Green Plaza, Ayer Hall – Margaret Walker Center, Rose E. McCoy Auditorium)  
Monday Mid-Day Talk with veterans – Mrs. Flonzie Brown Wright, Mr. Hollis Watkins, Mrs. Ineva Mae Pittman, Mr. MacArthur Cotton  
Monday Afternoon Driving Tour in Jackson (Old Jackson Municipal Library, Greyhound Bus Station, State Fairgrounds, Farish Street, Tougaloo College, Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center) and Medgar Evers house  
Tuesday Morning Delta trip stops (Greenwood, Money, Ruleville, Mound Bayou, Cleveland) with Mr. Charles McLaurin  
Tuesday Afternoon Delta trip stops (Indianola, Greenville, Belzoni, Sumner, Drew, Glendora) with Mr. Charles McLaurin  
Wednesday Morning Ole Miss – Oxford Lyceum, Meredith Monument, and meeting with Jarod Roll, Charles Eagles, J.T. Thomas and students  
Wednesday Afternoon Mid-South Peace & Justice Center in Memphis  
Thursday Morning National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel  
Thursday Afternoon AFSCME Panel with Mr. Baxter Leach, Alvin Turner, and Mr. Nickleberry and Heritage tour of Memphis Civil Rights Stops (Mason Temple, Mountaintop Sculpture, Clayborn Temple, Slave Market District, Sit-in locations, Route of Dr. King’s last march)  
Friday Mid-Day Little Rock Central High School and trip ending

We are first heading to Jackson on Sunday and will spend much of Sunday on Jackson State’s campus and around the city. Tuesday we will be touring the Mississippi Delta, and Wednesday we will be on Ole Miss’ campus. The final few days of the trip we head up to Memphis and then pass through Little Rock on our way home Friday. Overall, we plan to visit many of the civil rights museums, historical markers, and sites of intrigue across these parts of the South. Our days will be pretty jam-packed, but I expect it to be informative as well.

As a scholar, I am interested in two different sets of rhetorical relationships between the public/the State and civil rights history. First, I want to learn more about how violence is memorialized/not memorialized at some of these sites. While many of us think of the civil rights movement as being the epitome of “nonviolent protest,” much historical scholarship, and especially local studies scholarship, has demonstrated the importance of violence and self-defense in the movement. Since we are visiting a few sites where violence is publicly remembered, like on the Jackson State and Ole Miss campuses and at the Lorraine Motel, I want to see how these sites record their histories of violence. Do they acknowledge them? Do they keep them in the background? Since these sites obviously benefit from violence, I want to see how they rhetorically position themselves in relation to it.

Secondly, I am interested in the ways that places like the Mississippi Delta promote civil rights tourism in the likes of say, Jazz history tourism. I have heard that the Delta has more colorful, better placed signs for their Jazz history tour than the civil rights tour. I am not sure if this is true or not, or if I will be able to visually see these differences from the road, but I hope to capture how these small towns and the state of Mississippi illustrate their history for visitors.


While these are not the only things I will be recording on my trip, these are the two research questions I am invested in as the tour begins.Throughout this trip, I will be posting pictures, thoughts, and scholarly intrigues on a nightly basis on my blog. The purpose of this blog is to detail my adventures, my new knowledge, and my emotional experiences at many of these sites. While I am not sure when I can post each night, I hope to go to bed after giving a brief write-up of the day’s activities and events. So follow my blog and keep an eye out for me!


2016 Syllabus: “The Rhetorics and Arguments of Race in the 21st Century”



Course Description: Though many have dubbed the age of Obama as “post-racial,” race still plays an important role in the identity, classification, and context of millions of Americans around our nation today. Arguably, since the struggles of civil rights in the 1960s, race has transformed to a more complicated matter, one which is often hard to define, but is often a constant variable in the news and in many people’s lives. The purpose of our class will be then to investigate race’s evolution as a rhetorical identity and to argue about how it shapes our contemporary society.

To begin, the role of our class is to first understand race is rhetorical and affects the real world, and then we will begin to create arguments about race. More specifically, we will learn to compose arguments about race’s role in theoretical terms, identity, culture, and consciousness. Our readings will pair with our assignments to generate recent debates and opinions surrounding race (for instance, the Ferguson and Baltimore protests and Confederate Flag debate), and students will work toward analyzing the role of race as a headline, as a topic of pain, as a subject of memory, and as a marker of identity.

Since the rhetorical nature of race often is politically charged and full of “hot takes,” this class will focus on race with a critical but sensitive lens, emphasizing understanding, empathy, and writing about not only personal viewpoints but the views of others as well.  I ask for all students to be respectful of others in this classroom, be open to opposing perspectives, and be willing to challenge your own presumptions about racial topics. While the purpose of this course is not to dictate a single ideology of race, we should be mindful of respectful of all viewpoints in this class. This goes for you and me.

Overall, our class will expand on race’s function in the contemporary world, and we will work together to explore how an understanding of race enriches our knowledge of American culture and society.

This course, like all courses at TCU, has certain outcomes that should be achieved by the end of the semester that are specific to our program and to this specific course. These outcomes are goals to work toward success in this classroom and should be conscious guides in thinking and writing in our classroom:

  1. Students will demonstrate facility with the language and analysis of argument
  • Will be able to employ various analytical tools, including the techniques of Bitzer and Toulmin, to construct arguments
  • Will be able to demonstrate a knowledge of critical race theory’s rhetorical terms in creating an argument within various papers and assignments
  • Will be able to utilize the language of argumentation and critical race theory in constructing individual papers and in analyzing other’s arguments
  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to write an argument for a specific rhetorical situation
  • Will be able to write varying arguments for different genres (manifestos, book reviews, legal arguments, public memory arguments)
  1. Students will demonstrate competency in using sources (primary, secondary, electronic) in argument construction
  • Will demonstrate knowledge in finding credible sources that help create an argument in varying assignments
  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to critically engage with digital environments
  • Will be able to analyze and argue about digital spaces and content
  • Will effectively use digital media in presenting book reviews and manifestos


Required Textbooks:

Delgado, Richard, and Jean Stefancic. Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, Second Edition. 2012.


ISBN-13: 978-0814721353.  $15 on Amazon. $20 through publisher.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me. 2015. ISBN-13: 978-0812993547

$15 on Amazon. $24 hardcover through publisher.

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow. 2012. ISBN-13: 978-1595586438

$11 on Amazon. $15 through website.

Various articles will be provided in class

Other Required Materials: 


  • Around $20 for photocopying expenses  
  • A pocket folder to contain your writings
  • A notebook for notes



Classroom Assignments Breakdown:

Application of CRT Term Paper (3 pages) – 15%

Race and Law Paper (7 pages) – 20%

Race and Public Memory Paper (5 pages) – 20%

Book Review Project (presentation) – 15%

Race Manifesto (5 pages, plus presentation) – 20%

Class Discussion- 10%

Course Requirements

  1. CRT Term Paper –Very early in the semester, we will be analyzing and discussing the language of race in the 21st century, stemming from the emerging field of critical race theory. Our very first conversations and readings in the class will be dissecting rhetorical terms from this theory and applying them to real world situations (outside of legal cases, which will come later in the semester). For our first assignment, then, you will be taking a term we discuss in class involving critical race theory (found in various readings and in an appendix) and will apply this term to a real situation that you see in the world or in the news (spanning over the last few years). You will specifically choose a case study from a news story, real world event, or popular culture to write this paper. Since critical race theory provides a lens for understanding and interpreting race in contemporary society, you will be able to take a term from this theory and better understand its rhetorical and cultural nature. For example, if you choose the term “unconscious racism,” you might apply this to the news stories covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina—where white people “stealing” food were labelled as “survivors” and black people “stealing” food were labelled as “looters.” Since CRT will be our lens of interpretation the rest of this semester, this first paper will provide the means to further construct arguments for all other assignments. You will achieve course outcomes #1 and #2 through first learning the language of cultural argument in studying your term and then producing a persuasive paper that demonstrates your knowledge of the definition, function, and rhetorical nature of this term in society.


  1. Race and Law Paper– Our second paper of the semester will interrogate the way that laws and understandings/definitions of race intersect. Since the year 2000, there have been many legal cases, even in the Supreme Court, dealing with race, such as anti-discrimination laws, overturning the Voting Rights Act, and cases on affirmative action too. After reading The New Jim Crow and discussing various legal cases/issues on race in class, you will be asked to write a paper in which you investigate the ways various laws, legal cases, and/or (un)lawful situations affect how either the American public interprets race or how the legal system interprets race. The purpose of this assignment will be to better understand how your legal case constructs, enacts, or produces race in America through a lens of critical race theory and critical legal studies. You will be asked to use the language of CRT to analyze your legal situation and to construct arguments. This paper will help you achieve course outcomes #1, #2, and #3 by asking you to construct an argument about a legal case (a specific rhetorical genre) and to utilize several primary and secondary sources to produce your finished assignment.


  1. Race and Public Memory Paper– Over the past year, America has witnessed the #BlackLivesMatter movement reappropriate sites, statues, and symbols of public memory. The Confederate Flag was removed from the South Carolina statehouse due to a change in public perception/memory on its rhetorical usage and even monuments to the Confederacy were vandalized and tagged with #BlackLivesMatter in protest of the whitewashing of history. For this paper, you will investigate the rhetorical nature of a site, statue, or symbol of contested racial memory, such as the Confederate Flag or statues to Confederate generals, and will analyze how various racial groups have varying interpretations of the same symbolic structure. Your argument will not lead you to declaring one side is right and one side is not, but rather you will create a case for better understanding the site as an argument within itself. In class, we will discuss types of public memory, its rhetorical strategies, and will analyze various structures. This paper will help you achieve course outcomes #1, #2, #3, and #4 through building an argument about a site of public memory, utilizing rhetorical tools to understand the idea of “public memory,” and incorporating various visual and technological sources to promote your argument of this site.


  1. Book Review Project– At the beginning of the semester, I will provide a list of 25 books in the class that cover race and rhetoric in the 21st century. In groups of three (dependent on how many students are in class), you will choose one book to read as a group. In the last half of the semester, I will provide dates for each group to give a presentation of their book to the class. For this assignment, I will ask you to present your book in 15-20 minutes, to cover the book’s aim, audience, reason for writing, and other rhetorical devices, to the classroom. On this date, you will also turn in a three page response in which the group summarizes the book and explains the most intriguing parts of the author’s analysis. We will talk more about this presentation early in the semester, and I will provide the class with a book list and dates for their presentation within the first week of classes. This paper will help you achieve course outcomes #1, #2, and #4 through building an implicit argument about your book (or, rather, understanding the argument of your book), utilizing a set of skills needed the book review genre, and employing visual and technological tools to aid your presentation.


  1. Race Manifesto– Your final paper for the semester will be a race manifesto covering any subject/topic/idea that we covered throughout the semester. This will be a final summative project consisting of original research in the field on any racial topic that you choose but must offer the following: 1) An original thesis claim that provides “new” insight into race or race relations in the 21st century; 2) Research that supports such claims; and 3) An explanation for how this helps America better understand race/race relations. I want this topic to be as open-ended as possible, and the basis of your manifesto can come from any research, analysis, or topics that we have talked about in class or from anything outside of our readings as well. Finally, you will also give a brief presentation of your manifesto to the class during our final exam time. We will talk about this project occasionally throughout the semester so you can start taking notes for ideas, but our final few weeks of this semester will be spent directly working on this assignment. This paper and presentation will help you achieve course outcomes #1, #2, #3, and #4 though building an original argument about the state of race in America with primary and secondary sources, employing specific rhetorical tools for the genre of a manifesto, and utilizing visual and technological tools to aid your presentation.


  1. Class Discussion– Class discussion is important in this course for two reasons: 1) Writing well is essentially communicating well, so being able to discuss your ideas and thoughts with others potentially could help your writing. Since this course is workshop/discussion based, we need participation to move our conversations along. 2) Talking about race is hard. We have all seen people get mad and start yelling when race becomes a subject. But our class should be an open place to talk about race, especially when our opinions differ. While I understand many often fear being called a racist and this is what hinders so many racial conversations, you must participate to earn these points and to be a full member of the class.


Course Calendar (Subject to Change)

Week 1: The Foundations of Race in America

Tuesday, 1/12- Introductions; Class Overview; discussion of race in America

Thursday, 1/14-Introduction to Critical Race Theory; rhetoric and CRT; first assignment; book review sign-up

Week 2: Critical Race Theory, Part 1

Tuesday, 1/19- Readings Due: First two chapters of CRT book (30 pages); discuss basic principles of CRT; connect to rhetoric

Thursday, 1/21- Readings Due: Chapters 3 and 4 of CRT book (29 pages); discuss counterstorytelling and essentialism/antiessentialism as rhetorical acts; discuss structure of paper

Week 3: Critical Race Theory, Part 2

Tuesday, 1/26- Readings Due: Chapters 5 and 7 (50 pages); Discussion of paper progress; Mapping out papers; connecting theory to reality (examples); rhetorical arguments

Thursday, 1/28- WORKSHOP DAY

Week 4: Race and the Legal System

Tuesday, 2/2- CRT Paper Due; Discussion of new assignment; lecture on race and legal system

Thursday, 2/4- Readings Due: “Introduction” and “The Rebirth of Caste” in The New Jim Crow; discuss legal precedent in the history of race; brainstorm paper ideas

Week 5: “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!”

Tuesday, 2/9- Readings Due: “The New Jim Crow” in The New Jim Crow; workshop thesis statements

Thursday, 2/11- Readings Due: Various readings on Ferguson, Baltimore, and #BlackLivesMatter;  discussion on legal resources/databases; structure of paper

Week 6: Finalizing Paper Details

Tuesday, 2/16- Paper progress report, mapping papers

Thursday, 2/18- WORKSHOP DAY, finalizing paper details

Week 7: Contested Sites of Racial Memory

Tuesday, 2/23- Race and Law Paper Due; introduction to Public Memory Assignment; what are public memory and sites of public memory?

Thursday, 2/25- Readings Due: “Reappropration of Public Memory” (PDF); and “Sparring with Public Memory” (PDF); discussion of sites chosen for public memory

Week 8: Remembering, Disremembering, and Erasure

Tuesday, 3/1- Analyzing sites of public memory; erasing history; workshopping thesis statements

Thursday, 3/3- Readings Due: “Chicago Contested Memories” and the History of Mike Brown’s memorial (will give various reads in class); explore rhetorical means of contestation


Week 10: Whiteness and Fulfilling Place and Memory

Tuesday, 3/15- Readings Due: “Tradition and Southern Confederate Culture;” discussion on space and whiteness; analyzing space, structure, and place

Thursday, 3/17- Shaping paper; the rhetoric of memory; secondary sources

Week 11: Whiteness and Fulfilling Place and Memory

Tuesday, 3/22- Readings Due: “Whitewashing the Past;” use of visuals in paper

Thursday, 3/24- Readings Due: “Tradition and Southern Confederate Culture: Manifesting Whiteness through Public Memory at Texas A&M University;” finalizing analysis

Week 12: Finalizing Race and Public Memory Paper

Tuesday, 3/29- WORKSHOP DAY

Thursday, 3/31- Race and Public Memory Paper Due; Introduction to Manifesto Paper; Read: Part I Between the World and Me; discuss racial contexts

Week 13: Transitioning Public Memories to Manifestos

Tuesday, 4/5- Book Reviews; Read: Part II Between the World and Me; discuss rhetorical conventions of Coates; thesis statements; rhetorical genre of manifesto

Thursday, 4/7- Book Reviews; rhetorical strategies of manifestos;

Week 14: The Pain of Race and Coates

Tuesday, 4/12- Book Reviews; Read: Cornel West, Race Matters (Excerpt PDF); discuss West’s rhetorical strategies (especially Christian dogma); idea shares

Thursday, 4/14- Mapping papers; structure of paper discussion

Week 15: Prophecy, Christianity, and Deliverance 

Tuesday, 4/19 – Read: Derrick Bell, And we are not saved (Excerpt PDF); discuss Bell’s rhetorical strategies; mapping paper

Thursday, 4/21- DRAFT DAY

Week 16: Final Preparations on Manifesto

Tuesday, 4/26- Final touches on paper; last minute questions/details; workshopping ideas

Thursday, 4/28- STUDY DAY, no class


Tuesday Race manifesto presentations will be due at the final exam date provided on the TCU Calendar 


CFP for Cultural Rhetorics Conference on Narrative and Memory

Aja Martinez and I are pleased to present the following CFP for the Cultural Rhetorics Conference at Michigan State on September 30-October 2, 2016. Feel free to pass this along to any friends or colleauges who might be interested.

Tentative Title of Proposal: “Narrative, Memory, and Critical Race Theory”

Our proposal seeks panelists interested in rhetorical and racial constructions of genre, narrative, and memory, especially as it connects with the budding field of critical race theory research. With the recent wave of racial angst occurring in Ferguson, Missouri and other cities; on the Mizzou campus; with immigration debates; and in connection with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, it becomes important for us as cultural rhetorics scholars to analyze and better understand the way that people of color employ methods of narrative and memory to aid their causes across the world and in America. Specifically, we are interested in ways that critical approaches to genre (such as narrative and memory formations) help individuals seek justice, reconciliation, and retribution in a world of explicit and systemic oppression. We are especially interested in ways that scholars could combine various theoretical approaches in critical race theory, such as storytelling, revisionist histories, and racial consciousness, to new rhetorical approaches to race.

We ask any interested panelists to submit proposals or questions to James Chase Sanchez ( or @JChaseSanchez). Individual proposals should be 150-200 words in length.

Thanks for the consideration!

On Forgetting


“On memory and forgetting: “In other words, to use an image from computers, an individual remembers by making a backup file that is different than the original. The act of recall cannot take place without corrupting this original file in some way, because the backup writes over the earlier data. It is a binary with a life of its own, a blemish in a quadrant. This blemish erases the original as soon as memory is activated or even while the ‘file’ is inert.” –Norman M. Klein, The History of Forgetting

“Most things are forgotten over time. Even the war itself, the life-and-death struggle people went through is now like something from the distant past. We’re so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about everyday, too many new things we have to learn. But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.” –Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore


“The pain, or the memory of pain, that here was literally sucked away by something nameless until only a void was left. The knowledge that this question was possible: pain that turns finally into emptiness. The knowledge that the same equation applied to everything, more or less.” –Roberto Bolano, 2666

Diamonds Crossing Train Tracks Photographer: Paul w Sharpe aka Wizard of Wonders™ "Wizard of Wonders™ All Rights Reserved copyright 2010"

Have I Lost You, Friend?, Or The Righteousness of Throwing Trash Cans


When Mookie stares down Sal’s Pizzeria towards the end of Do The Right Thing, he is perplexed with a single question: what is the right thing? After Mookie’s friend Radio Raheem dies via police brutality, the people take to the streets to find justice. Looking upon Sal’s Pizzeria, a symbolic site of whiteness and “the man,” Mookie has a choice to either start a riot against his boss, a man he gets along with, or disobey his own people, his Black brethren of Brooklyn, who need someone to pay for their crimes. Mookie’s dilemma becomes philosophical: hurt the business of someone who did him no harm because someone (symbolically) must pay as retribution or just try to shake off the storm. Thinking for a brief moment, Mookie throws a trash can into the window at Sal’s, condemning the restaurant and sealing their fate…….


Yesterday I took part in a panel at TCU for the Women and Gender Studies department. The panel was titled “Micro and Macro Aggressions: Violence, Identity, and Accessibility Online.” Along with two other scholars from the library and Communications departments, we collectively discussed the roles of access and the violence against people of color and women that occur frequently online. Specifically, I talked about the Black Lives Matter movement and how leaders reappropriate racism to support their own causes and gain followers. The talk, overall, was fascinating and had over 50 students and scholars in attendance.

But I haven’t been able to shake a question a student asked, a question I have asked myself for quite some time. A student at this event asked the panelist about how to call out friends for microaggressions. A microaggression is when someone (typically without intent) says something offensive or essentializes a group of people. For example, asking where the doctor is when a female hospital employee enters the hospital room could be a microaggression because it assumes that all men are doctors and women are nurses. The student, concerned with how to deal with these topics in the real world, asked an important question.


“What do we do when our friends say these things?” she asked politely. “I don’t want to lose my friends over them saying certain things but I also don’t want them to be offensive.” The other two panelists jumped into the conversation and began talking about ways to approach friends on the matter. “Use humor to calm the situation,” one panelist said. “That is a really tough question,” the other responded.

I hesitated to answer for a moment because a pain existed within me from my own experiences with this question. What happens when your understanding of the world differs from your friends? What happens with the racially insensitive things yours friends used to say in a joking manner don’t seem funny to you anymore? What happens to your friends when you change? Looking down for a moment, I thought about how to answer, not just for the young woman asking the question, but for me too.

“That really is a tough question to answer because I have experience with this as well,” I began to respond. “I lost many friends because of the nature of my research (investigating how residents in my hometown talk about race and racism), and I have been publicly chastised for my viewpoints.”

I took a moment before I continued because I had to find that truth for myself.

“But I think the best way to answer is to say there is no wrong or right way to handle it. It absolutely a personal choice, and we all have a line that cannot be crossed. I began losing my friends when I changed that line to better reflect who I am as a person and a scholar. I began calling out my friends when they said something racist or sexist, and I lost a few friends because of this. It hurts. It will always hurt. But you can take solace in knowing you are doing the right thing.

The Right Thing. Do I do it? Is being confrontational leading me or my friends to a better future? Maybe not….

The Right Thing? Does Mookie do it? Does throwing the trash can into the pizza place make up for the death of Radio Raheem? Maybe not….

But maybe, just maybe, the trash cans we throw, the risks we take at an attempt for justice, carry much more righteousness than we as individuals ever could. Maybe the right thing exists in simply trying.


The Historical Truths of Lynching, Racism, and the KKK in Grand Saline

A lot of you have opinions about me and my views of race in contemporary America. I know this. I have been very public about my research on race, Charles Moore, and Grand Saline, and this has caused me to lose friends from my hometown and have people attack me publicly. Though that hurts me on a personal level, I understand it. Many feel that I am defaming my hometown or calling everyone there a racist. Please believe that I am not trying to do that. Rather, I am trying to write about what I know to be true. To some, I must come off as some liberal, ivory-tower researcher who many have dubbed as “knowing nothing about the real world.” I get it. I think I actually know a lot about the real world, but I get it.

I have reached a point in my research that I think it would be a good time to come forth with some of my findings, not as a way to “defame” the town or create more arguments among my friends, but to show some of you what I have found. And I think some of you will actually be surprised. In the sections that follow, I will analyze the three most told legends of Grand Saline regarding the sundown sign, the KKK and Clark’s Ferry, and Poletown. I will try to cite each source from my material for you to investigate on your own, but I urge each each of you to read this all the way through.

So here it goes. Here are the historical truths of race/racism in Grand Saline.

sundown towns

“The Sundown Sign”— James Loewen, a renowned sociologist and historian, has collated some oral evidence to suggest Grand Saline did have sundown signs. He has collected various oral evidence to make this claim on his larger project and labelled the town as such in his book Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism. His collected evidence can be seen here:

Other articles, such as Richard Stewart’s article on Grand Saline and segregation in the Houston Chronicle, analyzes how some of these legends. He writes halfway through the article, “Grand Saline’s reputation for racial intolerance is rooted in stories — denied by many local residents — of lynchings of blacks who stayed in the town past sundown.” He also quotes a few current residents who state the town did actually have these signs. His research can be found here:

“The KKK in Grand Saline”— There is more historical evidence of the KKK existing in Grand Saline than people give credit to. In a historical project of Jordan’s Saline, the previous name of Grand Saline, Milda Mason, accompanied by researchers Ruby Wallace and Elvis Allen, states that the KKK has a “large encampment of men” outside of town in the late-1800s and terrorized the people of town and that they often controlled much of the culture of town. Her research can be found here:


Margaret Elizabeth Hill’s book, A History of Van Zandt County, backs up these claims and even states that the KKK killed many men (black and white) during this time. On one occasion, she writes, the KKK “repeatedly shot five Negroes and dumped their bodies in a Canton street.” She states another incident in which the KKK found out that a local white man spoke at black assembly. The KKK captured him and “displayed his head on a pole along the roadside.”

Of course, most historical work on the town agrees the KKK was active in the Reconstruction period of town, but many question the KKK’s influence afterwards, especially leading into the years in the post-Civil Rights 1970s. Both Stewart’s article and Suzanne Gamboa’s 1994 piece on race in Grand Saline, both cite residents who claim they have seen the KKK at Clark’s Ferry or even show that some people in town road around with KKK bumper stickers on their car. From this research in the early-1990s, over twenty years ago, it seems the legends of the KKK have captivated the town for quite some time and was even a part of normative culture of one point (since the town had KKK sympathizers who felt they could put these stickers on the cars and feel safe).

Statesman GS Article 4

“Lynchings at Poletown”— The story of Poletown revolves around legends of Grand Saline residents and the KKK lynching people at these sites. Hill’s book, stated above, reports at least one incident of this. Mason’s research, also shared above, does the same. Much of the stories of lynchings stem from oral legends, told from one another in passing. Several current and former residents of Grand Saline tell me they quite vividly remember the stories of Poletown, but none of them can trace back the origins of these stories.

Out of all the hours of research, searching the internet, digging around archives, and scrolling through newspaper microfilm, I have only been able to find a limited amount of evidence talking about race in Grand Saline that I have stated above. For a town that many would state has a rich history or folklore of race and racism, you would think more research on this subject would exist. But there doesn’t seem to be much.

Statesman GS Article 5


The truth is we don’t know much truth about racism in Grand Saline. The truth is we may never know much more than we do now. From all the research I have conducted, the interviews, archival work, and newspaper clippings, the history of Grand Saline’s racism does not seem exceptional. They seem to be similar to most towns in the south via pre-Civil Rights. And I can’t help but feel happy to be able to say this.

But a deeper truth lies within Grand Saline, one ultimately darker than their history. If Grand Saline was not exceptionally racist, if the town never took part in these lynchings or hosted KKK meetings, then why do many town residents tell stories of these legends? Why are these legends in the first place? I contend the heart of Grand Saline’s legacy does not exist actually within the truth of their history; rather, it exists within the perception of the town’s residents. And for most of my adolescent years growing up in Grand Saline, I knew the stories of Clark’s Ferry, Poletown, and the sundown town to be true because everyone told them as truth. All of my friends and peers told them as truth. Someone had to tell them these stories as truth. And over the years, likely multiple decades, stories and legends that contain little historical evidence became truth.

As a scholar interested in rhetoric, race, and perception, I would be less intrigued with my hometown if it had a long history of racism. But the perception of the town now as racist, by some residents and by many outsiders, tells me more about how Grand Saline’s folklore persuade people. Sometimes truth doesn’t have to be historical; it can be perceived. And for the residents of Grand Saline and the town’s culture, they have a perception problem, one that still looms in the present. One that will never go away unless they consciously, explicitly attempt to eradicate it.

Michael Hall, the writer for Texas Monthly who wrote a biography on Charles Moore, also searched for history on Grand Saline and race and came up empty handed. He told me in an interview, “Usually when you see smoke, you find fire nearby. But I was not able to find that fire.” Like me, Hall had also heard many legends of Grand Saline and believed the town had a rich history of racism. But little historical evidence shows this. Hall and I both agree on this.

The fire we were searching for disguised itself as history when really it was perception and culture. Thus, as the history of Grand Saline’s racism wanes to lack of findings in recorded evidence, its perception continues on in an unrelenting, burning flame.


The Face of America’s Police Problem

The picture above is blurry.

But the picture above also shows why America has a police problem: officers would rather threaten youth of color with a gun than treat them like actual people. In this instance, a McKinney police officer was called to a break up a pool party in the small suburb community. The officer can be seen running around keeping certain teenagers detained, and when one young black teenager fails to leave the scene, he over-aggressively tackles her, shoving her face into the ground. The crowd, naturally, decries the intense situation, and when two black teens arrive to help their friend, the cop can be seen pulling out his weapon and pointing it in their direction.

Let me state that again: a police officer drew his weapon and pointed it at two teenagers who were not threatening him because he….wait, what was his motivation again?

Did he feel threatened? The two teenagers had a chance to attack the officer but did not. They cannot be heard yelling vulgarities at him. Any discussion of “feeling threatened” must begin with the officer projecting his fears onto young teenagers of color when he knows he is in the wrong.

Did he feel afraid for his life? The police have a hard job for sure. They place themselves in the line of fire, between intense, emotional, and even life-threatening situations all the time. But the line must be drawn at some point; a cop should not use the “feared for my life” excuse upon a situation that he or she draws a gun. I agree that pulling out a gun should be a last resort, an assessment of the situation which leaves the officer to believe violence could occur and must be stopped, but when the fear of violence is not felt, not seen, not heard, a gun should never be pulled. That simple action causes the constant mistrust between police officers and communities of color, and when events like this take place, we as Americans need to empathize with the civilians because they are the ones truly fearing for their lives since the sight of the gun was aimed in their direction, not the cop’s.

So what did he feel? We can only assume that in this moment, the McKinney police officer felt that pulling his gun was the answer. How has our police culture moved to this moment when unarmed teens who do not threaten an officer makes him pull out a gun and threaten their lives?

The event in McKinney represents a microcosm of the mistrust of police all across America. Until Americans decide that situations like this, when unwarranted violence is unnecessary and deplorable, should be intolerable, they will continue to happen, and the rifts between our communities will continue to grow. We owe it to our fellow people, yes, the humans of color who many dehumanize and “thug”ize, the ones many of you feel scared sitting next to in movie theatres and in public places, to make the police for the people not against the people.

Here is a link to the video: