Master's Theses


Communication Studies

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


The purpose of this study was to compare the rhetoric of two Negro women orators- Sojourner Truth and Frances E. W. Harper as shown by a critical analysis of selected speeches from 1851 to 1875. For this study, two working hypotheses were required. First, to determine the historical value of these two women, it was the working hypothesis that Sojourner Truth and Frances Harper were influential forces in molding public sentiment toward reform issues during the Antebellum and Postbellum periods of American History, specifically antislavery and women's rights. On the basis of the investigation this hypothesis was borne out. Second, to evaluate them as public speakers, it was the hypothesis that Sojourner Truth and Frances Harper developed effective theories of rhetoric, which were probably influenced by their diverse backgrounds. On the basis of the investigation this hypothesis was partially borne out. By looking into the backgrounds, lives, and works of Sojourner Truth and Frances Harper several insights and influences that applied to their speech-making were noted. Sojourner’s major influences consisted of her mother's religious instruction, her association with the Quakers, and her exposure to the reform movement in New York City by the Latourette family. The major influences in Frances Harper's life included her uncle, her education, training in the domestic arts, and her quest for knowledge through books. To place these women in their proper rhetorical setting, it was necessary to reconstruct the general rhetorical atmosphere as demonstrated by the political, economic, social, and intellectual aspects of life in the Antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction years. Because these women had extensive careers and were known throughout the North and the South, it was concluded that there was a high degree of probability that these two Negro women orators were influential forces in shaping public sentiment regarding the reform issues of anti-slavery and women’s rights. The examination of these Negro women as public speakers demonstrated that although they did not advance a systematic theory of rhetoric, they were in all probability effective platform speakers. Thus, Sojourner Truth and Frances E. W. Harper were effective practitioners of their art. The investigation of their rhetorical skills including invention, logical proof, emotional proof, ethical proof, structure, style, delivery, and effectiveness demonstrated that while these women employed different techniques, it may be said that, these techniques were a logical outgrowth of their backgrounds and experiences in life. These techniques were also complimentary not only to the speaker’s personality but also to the occasion and the nature of the audience. Further research in this area of public address was suggested. One of the most valuable contributions to American public address would be a history of the speaking activities of Negro women in America.


D. L. Miller

Date of Award

Spring 1968

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


© 1968 Janey Weinhold Montgomery


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