The Last Days of Summer: The Exploration of Black Innocence and Survival Through Letter Writing

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication and Rhetorical Studies


Erin Rand


Black;Fatherhood;Letter Writing;Motherhood

Subject Categories

Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences


In this thesis, I argue that the public epistolary practice of letter writing serves as a form of Black parents having “the talk” with their children. Not just with their own children within the private space of the home, but also more broadly and publicly with a younger generation. I focus on two works, Between the World and Me (2015) by Ta-Nehisi Coates and The Trayvon Generation (2022) by Elizabeth Alexander. These two works represent the ways in which Black parents, specifically from the perspectives of a Black motherhood and a Black fatherhood, engage in these conversations. I investigate the Black epistolary practices as a method of navigating Black experience and knowledge building. I do so because Black letter writing allows for Black people to articulate themselves as subjects of violence, witnesses of Black death, and individuals who have to necessarily navigate anti-Black racism. In articulating these experiences in a written form such as letters, Black people navigate the space of Black innocence by reconfiguring Black subjectivity with humanity while also carving resistive rhetorical space for imagining the possibility of Black survival. Through Black letter writing, Black men, women, and children communicate with one another to share their experiences and knowledge, creating intimacy between the composer and addressee.


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