Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Leslie J Harris

Second Advisor

Sara C VanderHaagen

Third Advisor

William M Keith


Bryan Stevenson, Edmund Pettus Bridge, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca, Philosophical Pairs, Public Memory, U.S. Civil Rights Movement


This thesis connects the rhetoric of Bryan Stevenson which advances truth and reconciliation for racial healing in the United States to a case study of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. I examine common cultural invocations of the bridge that support the persistence of a blurry public memory that occludes visibility of its original memorial dedication to a known white supremacist and instead celebrates it as a landmark of the civil rights movement. I also analyze arguments for both changing and keeping the name of the bridge that occurred between 2015-2020, illustrating ways in which Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca’s philosophical pairs manifest through and across these arguments. Instantiating the bridge in duality as both a monument to the confederacy and the civil rights movement, I contemplate what lessons the bridge makes available to a public that desires to engage in conversations that approach the truth-telling and reconciliation Stevenson has advocated.