Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Mary E. Stuckey

Second Advisor

Dr. Michael Bruner

Third Advisor

Dr. James Darsey

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Patricia Davis

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Mary Hocks


Louis Emanuel Martin, trained as a journalist, worked on behalf of four Democratic presidents: Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and Jimmy Carter. As reporter and editor of two African American newspapers, Martin was uniquely qualified to work with these presidents as a “publicity aide” turned rhetorical liaison for African American communities around the nation. His written and spoken works span from the 1930s to the 1990s—sixty plus years of historical interpretation—and include journals, memoirs, newspaper articles, interviews, and over fifty addresses to various audiences. Martin’s public address is key to this rhetorical biography, for his speeches tell stories of race relations in the United States from a largely unexplored perspective. In each epoch, Martin’s voice clearly articulated the concerns of African American communities, including housing, employment, poverty, and lingering discrimination far into the post-civil rights era. Martin believed in the power of the political process, the foundation of which was each person’s obligation to vote. Beyond the voting booth, Martin encouraged his audiences composed of African American government officials, academics, business people, fraternity members, civic groups, and local opinion leaders to become involved in the system to begin to address issues most important to them. Martin’s goal of a genuine “politics of inclusion” was gradually realized with the appointment of Blacks to government and judicial positions they had never before held. Martin chose to remain largely in the background facilitating other people’s rise to power. While there is Poinsett’s superb biography on his history, Martin’s work has otherwise been sporadically recognized in texts about civil rights, African American politics, and the black press. To my knowledge, there is no sustained study of his speeches, which have been safely archived for rediscovery by a twenty-first century audience. This project is an act of rhetorical recovery.