personal, throwback thursday, writing

Throwback Thursday: Rhetorical Analysis – Mary Ann Shadd Cary / Newspaper

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.

Racial prejudice and abolition: two of the most contentious political discussions in American history, and never more so than in the years leading up to the American civil war. Mary Ann Shadd Cary, an abolitionist and African-American herself, at a time when being so made you sub-human, established a newspaper for her people, advocating for the abolitionist cause. Using abolition as a focal point, Cary establishes a need for her newspaper “The Provincial Freeman” with contentious word choice that invokes imagery of the natural body and drawing its connection to natural rights, and by drawing a clear line from the want for abolition to the need for the newspaper by establishes that, if African-Americans wanted to be freed, they must make themselves fit to be so in their own eyes and in the eyes of Americans.

The imagery and double meaning in Cary’s word choice furthers her point both for abolition, and in extension, the necessity for the newspaper. Beginning with “[a] need for an organ” (line 1), Cary conveys a need for her people to speak out for themselves – which the newspaper would provide – with imagery of the natural body, an idea parallel to the natural rights denied to them back home [America]. This language continues throughout the editorial, with phrases such as “mouthpiece” (line 14) and “discharge our duties” (line 21), “discharge” is a word not generally used in such a context, but links the need to act as “freemen” to the natural born right to be free.

Cary also establishes a need for the newspaper by making it clear that “none of the papers… [in the US] answer our purpose” (line 41-42). The purpose being, working towards abolition. If editors in America will “be of little service to [them]” (line 54), then they “must allow our fellow subjects to know what we are and what we want” (line 12-13). She makes it clear to the readers that if they wish to one day be free they must “discharge the duties of freedmen” (line 18), essentially, they must act as if they are equal, and work towards the goal themselves, or forever go unrealized, and a newspaper is a way to work towards their own rights and freedom. Cary summarizes this view neatly in the end, saying “we have a paper because we think we need one” (line 55-56).

America was built as a land of equality, a land of the free, but for much of its history, both equal rights and freedom were denied to significant portion of the population. When this hypocrisy was in the political forefront, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, an abolitionist and African-America herself, established a newspaper to work towards freedom and equality for her people. She established a need for her paper with word choice invoking imagery to the natural body, drawing as a parallel to natural rights, and by maintaining that, if they wish to one day be free, they must both prove they can be so, and work towards it themselves.



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