Date of Award

August 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Sara VanderHaagen

Committee Members

Leslie Harris, Derek Handley, Lia Wolock


Public memory, Race, Region, Upper Midwest, Whiteness


The project examines how contemporary stories of abolition are inventive resources for articulating race in the upper Midwest. Focusing online fragments representative of abolition stories, these analyses illustrate the entanglement of rhetoric, remembrance, race, and region in a space distanced from race in the public imaginary. Through three case studies, I utilize the hermeneutic of public memory to advance a rhetorical reading of these narratives that construct the region through rhetorics of whiteness. In the first case study, rhetorics of purity are deployed in remembrances of Joshua Glover in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to absolve the state and its white residents from anti-Blackness across time. The second case study analyzes local and state remembrances of Sojourner Truth in Michigan. I find that these remembrances reflect back onto the Michigan an idealized image of itself, and dodges claims of anti-Blackness by representing Truth through the interrelated values of fortitude, moral superiority, and sanitized reform. The final case study demonstrates how rhetorics of heritage are utilized to portray Ripley, Ohio and its white residents as committed to freedom and morally superior. I theorize claims of heritage not as a companion to heritage but as a rhetorical maneuver to argue for the direct and inevitable passing of a substance on spatial lines. This project conclusions with reviewing the common arguments across case studies and white comfort in stories of abolition in the upper Midwest.

Included in

Communication Commons