Historical Scholar to Discuss Debate in the Antebellum U.S.


– Professor Angela G. Ray, a renowned communication scholar with a specialty in studying the history of the Clionan Debating Society in the antebellum United States, will present the Department of Communication’s 28th annual B. Aubrey Fisher Memorial Lecture, titled “A Green Oasis in the History of My Life”: Race and the Culture of Debating in Antebellum Charleston, South Carolina on Thursday, October 2nd at 7:30 p.m. in Room 1110 of the Language and Communication Building (LNCO). The event is free and open to the public.

Ray, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University, will narrate the history of this remarkable debating society established in 1847 by a group of young African American men, drawing on unpublished and rarely examined manuscript archives. Comparing the Clionians to other debating clubs throughout the country, she will seek to assess the significance of debate as a popular educational practice in the antebellum United States, especially in relation to race, gender, economics, national and regional belonging, and political turmoil. On Friday morning, Professor Ray will conduct an informal seminar, Writing Rhetorical History in Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Contexts: The Case of the Nineteenth Century U.S. Lyceum, which also is open to the public.

“Ray’s historical research on the culture of debating in the South, with regard to vital issues of race, gender, politics and beyond, offers an important message for the field of communication and the public at large, and we are thrilled to celebrate the 28th anniversary of the Fisher Lecture with Ray as our distinguished lecturer,” says Department Chair Kent Ono.  “Her award-winning research in rhetorical criticism and history is as timely now as ever before, and attending her lecture is an opportunity not to be missed.”

Ray received her PhD in speech communication from the University of Minnesota and her MA in drama and theatre studies from the University of London.  Her research has been published in many places, including the Quarterly Journal of Speech and Rhetoric and Public Affairs.  Her latest book, The Lyceum and Public Culture in the Nineteenth-Century United States, was published in 2005 by Michigan State University Press. Her book has received five national awards, including the National Communication Association’s Diamond Anniversary Book Award and the James A. Winans-Herbert A. Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address.

The B. Aubrey Fisher Memorial Lecture was established by the Department of Communication in 1986 to recognize the late Fisher’s outstanding achievements as a communication scholar and to provide a forum for presenting original research and theory in communication. The Department of Communication is proud to celebrate 28 years of continued scholarly excellence celebrated by the B. Aubrey Fisher Memorial Lecture.