Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Writing Program


Lois P. Agnew


Brown v Board, epideictic, public memory, rhetoric

Subject Categories



This dissertation examines the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary with emphasis on its civic and social rhetorical functions. The analysis focuses on the two week period leading up to the fiftieth anniversary and the dedication of the Brown v Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka. Data was gathered from various web sites related to the National Historic Site and the events in Topeka on the weekend it was dedicated, and from database records of national and international news sources. These materials were analyzed in three categories beginning with the Site itself and moving outward from Topeka to the national media response. The author argues that Brown functions in two ways that rival its function as law: first, as a tool of statecraft, a symbolic representation of America's highest ideals around which community is built through epideictic performances; and second as a dialectic, a proposition around which there continues to be an asynchronous conversation on how to achieve, or continue to move toward, the promise of Brown. Understanding the reconstruction of Brown at its fiftieth anniversary and the continued need for rhetorical efforts to bring about its promises underscores the value of studying judicial rhetoric from a rhetorical perspective, both to understand its civic and social function and to recognize the limits of law to achieve social change.


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