Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Crawford, Paul K.||Wood, Margaret Louise

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Speech


Groppi; James Edward; 1930-; Civil rights; Oratory


Ever since the cry "Black Power" reverberated through the American psyche, speakers and writers have attempted to explain, interpret, oppose and defend the slogan. This thesis attempts to explore one aspect of the black power crusade — the Milwaukee Civil Rights Movement. More specifically, the study is concerned with the rhetoric of the Milwaukee Movement as exemplified in its controversial leader, Fr. James Edward Groppi. Within Fr. Groppi's rhetoric, the Movement and the rationale of the Movement as a whole are proffered for critical evaluation by the observer of the contemporary. The study traces the Movement from the first moment it catapulted into the attention of the nation to its present state of affairs. Groppi's involvement, leadership and rhetoric are examined and evaluated in an attempt to assess Groppi's contributions and role in the Movement. Initially the study reconstructs the social setting and then proceeds to analyze the Movement as expressed in Fr. Groppi's speaking. The contemporary nature of such a study, however, presents inherent problems caused by the dynamism of the present. The daily changes occurring in the Movement may necessitate a reconsideration of what the writer believed to be the actual social setting. Be that as it may, the writer nevertheless attempted to analyze the forces at work impelling or even compelling social change under the guise of black power. The study makes several observations about the Movement. One of the primary observations is that Groppi's identification with the Movement is reflected in his choice of illustrative material and in his use of language, including the colloquial style of the black people with whom he has worked. Other rhetorical conclusions are also reached including the fact that Groppi's ethical and pathetic appeal greatly overshadow his logical appeal. The structural make-up of Groppi's rhetoric shows easily definable major divisions hampered by frequent digressions. The style of Groppi's rhetoric, while perforated with weaknesses, has a commonality which contributes greatly to the understanding of the message. Groppi's delivery is marked with vocal modulation and mobility in facial expression. After using six criteria to judge the effectiveness of his rhetoric, the study concludes with the observation that the rhetoric of the Milwaukee Civil Rights Movement is the rhetoric of agitation and that Fr. Groppi's prime effectiveness is that of an agitator.


Includes bibliographical references.


134 pages




Northern Illinois University

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