“Freedom is Everybody’s Job”: Elizabeth Waring’s Rhetorical Strategies to Dismantle Jim Crow
Rhetoric & Public Affairs 24, no. 4 (2021): 645-683.
On January 16, 1950, Elizabeth Avery Waring, a well-to-do white woman, delivered an explosive speech to the Coming Street (Black) Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in Charleston, South Carolina. Waring crafted the speech to provoke a response. She maneuvered behind the scenes to ensure that the speech reached a national audience. As a result, Waring received supportive and derogatory letters from people beyond the local audience. Four themes emerged in the derogatory letters: Good Southerner, Outsider to the South, Outsider to White Femininity, and Threats. The negative letters attempted to restore the illusion of consensus about segregation. The positive letter-writers admired Waring’s courage for saying what they were scared to say publicly. Waring circulated the responses to the speech in media interviews, letters, and subsequent speeches. The strategic circulation of the audience responses functioned rhetorically as an affirming device with the potential to create a white collective that publicly opposed segregation, thereby disrupting the appearance of unanimity. When applied to audience responses, circulation as a rhetorical strategy can remove barriers to speech, recruit adherents, and further movements.
March 2022 -