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Presented By: Drama and Performance Interest Group

“all their rage and malice”: Maria W. Stewart, Audience Resistance, and Nineteenth-Century African American Oratory

Dr. Laura Mielke

Photograph of Dr. Mielke Photograph of Dr. Mielke
Photograph of Dr. Mielke
Please join us for a lecture by Dr. Laura Mielke from the University of Kansas.

African American public speakers in the nineteenth century countered the white gaze by sharing observations of audiences, whether majority Black or white, male or female—or “promiscuous.” Orators including Frederick Douglass, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Charles Langston, Henry Highland Garnet, and Sojourner Truth referred to, described, analyzed, and poeticized audiences, often beckoning ideal assemblies when actual ones proved resistant. This lecture will consider such rhetorical uses of audience before focusing on the example of Maria W. Stewart (1803-1879), who bolstered her ethos by linking contemporary responses to her words with scriptural accounts of the prophets’ reception. Approaching Stewart in the broader context of nineteenth-century Black orators’ innovative interpretations of audience allows a rich understanding of her rhetorical legacy.

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