Children’s Biographies of African American Women: Rhetoric, Public Memory, and Agency

Sara C. VanderHaagen, University of South Carolina Press, 2018

Biographies are a powerful form of storytelling and teaching. To see how this plays out in children’s literature, Sara C. VanderHaagen, assistant professor of communication in the College of Letters & Science, examines biographies written for children about three African American women – activist Sojourner Truth, poet Phillis Wheatley and educator-turned-pioneering politician Shirley Chisholm. VanderHaagen draws on scholarship in rhetoric, memory studies and children’s literature to show how these life stories use traditional means to serve progressive ends. She also examines the rhetorical power of biography in shaping identity and promoting public action.