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MY BOOK: Winner of

2015 James Britton Award

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In Vernacular Insurrections: Race, Black Protest, and the New Century in Composition-Literacies Studies, I am attempting to locate literacy in the 21st century as and at the onset of new thematic and disciplinary imperatives brought into effect by Black Freedom Movements.  In this way, the relationships between composition studies, new literacies studies, and Black Freedom Movements can delineate breakthroughs and remaining cognitive closures surrounding the continued color line in language and literacy education.  College composition is placed into a hotly contested battleground since and because of the Civil Rights Movement, an issue widely agreed upon by compositionists but not taken up by those outside of composition-rhetoric studies as an important lens into race and hegemony in higher education.


With a subjectively-driven, narrative inquiry, I want to resurrect events that have vanished from the site of composition-literacies theories and represent these flashes of the past as vernacular insurrections.  Written in what might be called a cross-amalgamation of many styles and registers, the book borrows from educational history, critical race theory, first-year writing studies, Africana studies, African American cultural theory, cultural materialism, narrative inquiry, and basic writing scholarship.  Connections between social justice, language rights, and new literacies are uncovered from the vantage point of a multi-racial, multi-ethnic Civil Rights Movement that remains the most protracted struggle for equality that the United States has seen.


I want to show that theories and practices related to literacy in the 21st century and college composition represent much more than new technologies or events marked by the year 2000.  We must begin to see how a series of vernacular insurrections— protests and new ideologies shaped inside and because of Black Freedom Movements— have shaped our imaginations, practices, and research of how literacy works in our lives and schools.  I hope that this book opens us up to thinking about Black Freedom as a 21st century literacy movement.

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 The cover photo on my book represents a 1963 Civil Rights Protest by students in Farmville, VA, originally printed in the Richmond-Times Dispatch.  These young black students were protesting the school closings that resulted from mandated integration in Prince Edward County. For further reading: Robert Collins Smith's They Closed Their Schools: Prince Edward County, Virginia, 1951-1964 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1965).
DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Runnin with the Rabbits, but Huntin with the Dogs: On the Makings of an Intellectual Autobiography

Teaching Interlude I: Method Men and Women

1. “Before I’ll Be a Slave, I’ll Be Buried in My Grave”: Black Student Protest as Discursive Challenge and Social Turn in Nineteenth– and Twentieth–Century Literacies

Teaching Interlude II: Through Their Window 

2. “I Want To Be African”: Tracing Black Radical Traditions with “Students’ Rights to Their Own Language”

Teaching Interlude III: Undoing the Singularity of “Ethical English” and Language–as–Racial–Inferiority

3. “Ain’t We Got a Right to the Tree of Life?”: The Black Arts Movement and Black Studies as the Untold Story of and in Composition Studies

Teaching Interlude IV: “Not Like the First Time, Talkin Bout the Second Time”

4. “The Revolution Will Not Be [Error Analyzed]”: The Black Protest Tradition of Teaching and the Integrationist Moment

Teaching Interlude V: “Your Mother is Weak”

5. What a Difference an Error Makes: Ongoing Challenges for “White Innocence,” Historiography, and Disciplinary Knowledge Making

Outerlude: Leaving the Emerald City

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