On January 6, 2021, I was putting the finishing touches on this special issue with its focus on “Americas.” That same day, a mob of disaffected, disorganized, fragile, and frustrated Trump supporters managed to overrun the U.S. Capitol police and swarm the Capitol building. Their rampage briefly disrupted the certification of electoral college ballots from the 2020 election. Among the most prominent symbols brandished by the seditionist rabble were Confederate battle flags, nooses, “Make America Great Again” hats, and Trump flags (at least one of which was used to replace one of the Capitol’s many U.S. flags). While people clad in flannel and faux assault gear lounged in Speaker Pelosi’s office and took selfies in the well of the Senate, President-Elect Joseph Biden and many other political leaders responded to the mayhem with a familiar refrain: This is not who we are. This is not America.History shows us that such protestations of American innocence are misplaced. What happened in the U.S. Capitol in early January 2021 and the years of white supremacist, nationalist, colonial violence that preceded it are very much, fundamentally, what America is. As Ersula Ore says of lynching, the white settler violence at the U.S. Capitol (and beyond) “represents an instance in which the logic and spirit of American democracy are enacted” (Ore 2019, 15).This special issue’s six articles and four book reviews – including a review of Ore’s Lynching – extend that recognition of what America is and has been. They bring American injustice before our eyes and they offer visions of Americas otherwise. They reveal pasts, presents, and futures rich with resistance, survivance, imagination, and action. These texts also call scholars of American rhetorical history to writing, teaching, and disciplinary labor that recognize both American realities and the persistence of Americas otherwise. Later in this introduction, I will say more about how the content of this special issue speaks to those purposes. To begin, though, I situate the special issue itself as a process and product of that real and resisted America.The call for proposals for the “Americas” special issue began circulating in spring 2019. Abstracts were due that July. That summer, the U.S. presidential primary process began in earnest with a crowded panel of Democratic hopefuls – the most diverse slate in the party’s history. That same summer, President Trump faced yet another accusation of sexual misconduct, once again stepped up ICE deportation efforts, and launched his official reelection campaign. In July, the governor of Puerto Rico resigned in the face of mass protests partially sparked by his failures in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Meanwhile, in rhetorical studies, the NCA Distinguished Scholars’ resistance to change and Martin Medhurst’s public assertion of an either/or choice between diversity and excellence sparked a disciplinary reckoning with racism and white supremacy. As these events filled the summer and continued into the fall, scholars who were buffeted by national politics and that all-too-American disciplinary controversy, who were engaging deeply in activism, still found time to submit abstracts and share their American scholarship for this special issue.Full article drafts were due in January 2020, with revision re-submissions planned for May 2020. Protests against police violence, political organizing, and concern over climate collapse – all in the face of federal government inaction or outright antagonism – filled the fall and early winter leading up to that January deadline. Some of the authors in this special issue were on the academic job market, hoping to find positions in an academy profoundly shaped by neoliberal economic policies and white supremacist culture. Others were working toward tenure under those same conditions. The diverse Democratic primary field dwindled to a choice between two old, white men. In the spring, all of us had our professional and personal lives profoundly disrupted as the United States failed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The anti-Asian racism fomented by the president and the pandemic’s disproportionate effects on Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities shaped the writing and editing processes for these articles. We adjusted timelines, adjusted foci, and recognized that professional and personal priorities were being constantly rearranged.That summer, in the midst of the pandemic, uprisings responding to the police murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and many others again revealed the character of America and shaped the process of this special issue. Authors were preparing drafts for peer review and reviewers were reading drafts while facing an extraordinary fall. Both authors and reviewers took time to reflect, did what Christina Sharpe calls “wake work,” engaged in protest and organizing, and also wrote, revised, and gave generous feedback (Sharpe 2016). Those struggles to organize, process, and write continued through the fall as the 2020 election loomed large. Final drafts and final changes trickled in as we all watched and wondered about the final outcomes of the election. Its uncertainties lingered far beyond November 3rd.And so, in January 2021, when white leaders said that what happened in the U.S. Capitol was not America, the very being of this special issue protested. It had been written in America: the America that is and that has long been. It had been written in an America where racists calling themselves patriots could occupy the U.S. Capitol and be applauded by the U.S. President. It had been written in an America where colonial and “antiblack violence [share] a relationship of interiority with the making of the nation and maintenance of its people” (Ore 2019, 136). Its articles illuminate the complexity, complicity, and white supremacist patterns of America. Its authors write within, against, despite, and because of American reality and resistance. The America they critique and reimagine is the America that was on display on January 6, 2021, and it is an America that can and must be otherwise.That America, these articles argue, is also a place for a revitalized study of American rhetorical history: one grounded in an anticolonial, antiracist, and transnational understanding of America. In the 1990s, American Studies went through a trans-American turn, recognizing that “America” had never been just the United States of America and that any account of American cultural practice that stopped at U.S. borders was not just problematically curtailed but fundamentally flawed (Levander and Levine 2008; Rifkin 2009; Saldívar 2012). As others have noted, rhetorical studies was rather slow to catch on to that recognition (De Los Santos 2012; De Los Santos and Olson 2015). As the #RhetoricSoWhite hashtag and eponymous Quarterly Journal of Speech special issue pointed out, rhetorical studies has had a sorry disciplinary investment in the forums of the powerful and in the fictional story of a Western tradition that passed smoothly and naturally from Greece to Rome to Britain and finally to the United States (Wanzer-Serrano 2019). That investment has led to an homogenous and parochial scholarly mainstream.Ensconced in departments where writing and speaking in English have been of primary pedagogical concern (even as we acknowledge the rise of global English, the vibrancy of code meshing, and the pervasive practice of trans-languaging), rhetoricians long gave little thought to American rhetorics circulated in Spanish, Portuguese, or French, let alone those in Nahuatl, Kichwa, Haitian Creole, or Anishinaabemowin. Those languages, rhetoricians too often presumed, were the province of other fields. But while most rhetoricians ignored them, our colleagues in those other fields were busy pondering rhetoric, even if they rarely gave it that name. Scholars in Indigenous studies developed robust theories of story and the material consequences of language (Lyons 2000; Vizenor 1994; Wilson 2008). Latin Americanists plumbed the power of literacy – in alphabetic and nonalphabetic forms – in order to understand colonial power and its discontents (Boone and Mignolo 1994; Rama 1984; Salomon and Mercedes 2011). Scholars in Latinx Studies treated the politics of citizenship as matters of language and action (Gaspar de Alba 2014; Muñoz 1999; Pérez 1999). Critical Race Theorists and Black feminists tracked story and counterstory, the double-bind of rights discourse, and the enfleshed consequences of white supremacist discourse (Delgado 1989; Spillers 1987; Wynter 2003). And while the habitual centers of rhetorical studies lagged, some rhetoricians – particularly emerging scholars, Black scholars, Indigenous scholars, Latinx scholars, and other scholars of color – turned to those other fields in order to make a rhetorical studies that might be adequate to the questions they wanted to ask. Distressingly but unsurprisingly often (at rhetorical studies conferences and in the review processes of rhetoric journals), those rhetoricians have found themselves summarily dismissed. They were told that they were not doing rhetoric because they were not talking with the right (read, familiar) people, citing the right (read, Western) traditions, or making the right (read, traditional) kind of arguments. This is not who we are, those scholars have heard. This is not true rhetoric, they have heard. This is not America.But it was. And it is.The special issue before you continues that scholarly grappling with American rhetorical histories as they are and American rhetorical futures as they might be. In their sum, the articles and the book review forum on the future of African American rhetorical historiography are an embodiment of this special issue’s plural title, “Americas.” They embody it not because their multiple stories meld together into one sturdy alloy – a rhetorical melting pot – but because their confluences and departures offer up American rhetorical histories that are worth witnessing and pursuing in their variety and complexity. Together, the six article authors, four review authors, and four monograph authors gathered here make the case for an exciting, honest, and immensely varied future for American rhetorical history. They do so by departing from traditional venues and locales and by showing the vitality and texture of places that might have worn a bit thin. They do the good, hard work of rhetorical historiography, offering insight into specific histories of rhetorical practice and the scope of rhetoric as an area of study and an activity with designs on others.From start to finish, “Americas” works from the presumption that rhetorical studies in general and rhetorical history in particular are more insightful when rhetoricians engage in interdisciplinary conversations and unsettle traditions. Whether we study Roman rhetoric or settler colonial discourse, the U.S. presidency or Black counterpublics, our rhetorical theory, criticism, and history deserve the insights offered up in these pages and in the larger conversations they join. Indeed, despite the special issue’s somewhat insurgent purpose, I expect that even JHR’s most old-school readers will find much familiar here. The books reviewed in the forum speak directly and extensively to the concerns of rhetorical history. The articles likewise resonate with some of rhetorical history’s most persistent concerns: the making of nations and disciplinary identities, the public work of memory, and the character of rhetorical education. Each article attends to at least one of those themes and most treat more.Christina Cedillo’s essay identifies lynching and intermarriage as partnered forms of racial control in the post-annexation U.S.-Mexico borderlands. José Cortez’s article illuminates how Américan rhetoric’s longstanding disciplinary investments in mestizaje simultaneously occlude Blackness and participate in a troublingly binary logic of belonging. Both authors show persuasion at work in forming, perpetuating, and determining the shape of communities – whether the white settler nation or the field of rhetorical studies.In their articles, Karrieann Soto Vega and Miriam Fernandez each not only meld rhetoric, performance theory, and woman-of-color feminism but also offer theories of rhetorical performance and activism. Their arguments and case studies – set in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Mexico City, Mexico, respectively – help rhetoricians account for the role of history and public memory in anti-colonial projects.Florianne Jimenez and Brandon Erby draw us into the well-mapped territory of histories of rhetorical education but quickly toss away the old colonial charts and Jim Crow plottings. Jimenez takes seriously the sparks of resistance that shoot through essays written by Filipino students enrolled in U.S. colonial schools in the early 20th century. Erby returns us to the well-known case of Emmett Till’s murder but offers a pre-history and, in the process, demonstrates how “The Talk” is both a powerful Black American rhetorical genre and a lesson in the potential and limitations of rhetorical action. Nation, political action, public memory, and rhetorical education look familiar and unfamiliar in these pages and in the hands of these authors, and that, of course, is the point.The six articles of this special issue offer stories of American rhetoric that – to use Fernández’s terms – ought to haunt American rhetorical studies, productively provoking and persistently redirecting. In them, we find rhetorics of resistance, persistence, survival, and reckoning. In them, American rhetoric is a living thing and American rhetorical history is an active project. By drawing rhetorical historians into contemplation of students busily writing in Filipino classrooms, tajineras traversing Xochimilco canals, Mexican women traversing the eugenic borders of whiteness, and more, these scholars offer not just evocative case studies for rhetorical study but re-orientations for the study of rhetoric. These are exciting reads well worth your time. This is American rhetoric.No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.

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