Date of Award

May 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Sara V

Committee Members

Kathryn Olson, Derek Handley


Activism, Black feminist scholarship, Blame, Rhetoric, Say Her Name Campaign


There is a lack of research in communication scholarship that analyzes how Black women employ blame from their unique standpoint. To combat this, this thesis analyzes the Say Her Name Campaign to demonstrate the ways Black women employ an activist rhetoric of blame that deconstructs their historical erasure in the discourse about antiblack police violence. Drawing upon Black feminist scholarship and epideictic rhetoric, I argue that an activist rhetoric of blame, used by Black women, dramatically puts on display the life of individuals who have experienced injustices and exposes blameworthy misogynoir attitudes in order to criticize the inherent flaws within a policy or system and urgently demand sociopolitical transformation. Each chapter analyzes one specific characteristic of an activist rhetoric of blame which includes the pedagogical, resistive, and collectivist functions. My introduction which serves as my first chapter, outlines the history of Black women’s activism and connects it to blame. Chapter 2 analyzes three public texts from Kimberlé Crenshaw to explore the pedagogical functions of this form of blame. In chapter 3, I examine three slam poetry performances to investigate the resistive functions of an activist rhetoric of blame whereas chapter 4 analyzes the SayHerName: Moving Toward Justice and Action event to explore the collectivist functions. From this thesis project, we learn that Black women’s activist rhetoric of blame sets in motion the necessary awareness communities must adopt to adequately advocate for social justice.