A Rhetorical Criticism: Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, Interpreter of World Events, Inspirer of Young Men, and President of Morehouse College, 1940–1967 Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
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  • Keyes, William
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Communication
Abstract
  • ABSTRACT William A. Keyes IV: A Rhetorical Criticism: Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, Interpreter of World Events, Inspirer of Young Men, and President of Morehouse College, 1940–1967 (Under the direction of V. William Balthrop) African American male students in the United States underperform in comparison to their classmates of every other race, at every level of schooling, regardless of socioeconomic background. They also underperform in relation to African American women. Though fifty years have passed since Benjamin E. Mays served as president of Morehouse College (1940-1967), the rhetorical practices that enabled him to prepare so many young African American men for high academic achievement, career success, and civic contribution offer important insights that may help address this critical issue today. One of the central concepts that underpins the arguments in this dissertation is the replacement of negative images of African American men with intentionally-influenced terministic screens. As explored in this dissertation, A Rhetorical Criticism: Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, Interpreter of World Events, Inspirer of Young Men, and President of Morehouse College, 1940–1967, Mays offered his students vivid, specific, positive images of the Morehouse Man, and encouraged them to accept the Morehouse Man’s complex collection of positive attributes instead of the negative images of themselves and African American culture they had likely absorbed previously. Another central concept is that of the talented tenth. I use the term as defined in the Encyclopedia of African American History, which refers to those whose talents should be cultivated to enable them to advance the interests of all black Americans.” Using Kenneth Burke’s cluster-agon analysis method and terministic screens concept to examine 54 of the 200-plus speeches I reviewed, I identified Mays’ major themes: race, education, and religion. Through this analysis, it became clear that Mays sought to educate talented African American men to become citizens who would work to improve the lives of others and have positive influence in society. His rhetorical practices provide insights that can be utilized in 21st century America.
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Advisor
  • Blair, Carole
  • Parker, Patricia
  • Panter, Abigail
  • Watts, Eric
  • Balthrop, V. William
Degree
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2018
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