Drawing on original archival research in the rhetoric of civil rights, the author explores this largely underexamined rhetorical studies site
In Liturgy of Change: Rhetorics of the Civil Rights Mass Meeting, Elizabeth Miller examines civil rights mass meetings as a transformative rhetorical, and religious, experience. While rhetorical scholars have analyzed other components of the civil rights movement, including sit-ins, marches, and voter registration campaigns, as well as meeting speeches delivered by well-known figures, the mass meeting itself still is a significant but underexamined site in rhetorical studies. Miller's "liturgy of change" framework brings attention to the pattern of religious genres—song, prayer, and testimony—that structured the events, and the ways these genres created rhetorical opportunities for ordinary people to speak up and develop their activism. To recover and reconstruct these patterns, Miller analyzes archival audio recordings of mass meetings held in Greenville and Hattisburg, Mississippi; Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham, Alabama; Savannah, Sumter, and Albany, Georgia; St. Augustine, Florida; and Danville, Virginia.
Elizabeth Miller is assistant professor of English at Mississippi State University. Her work appears in College English, College Composition and Communication, Rhetoric Review, and Rhetoric & Public Affairs.