Off-campus WSU users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your WSU access ID and password, then click the "Off-campus Download" button below.

Non-WSU users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Richard Marback


This dissertation argues for a return language rights in composition studies. Language rights have been an integral part of composition's history since the late 1960s. The profession began to address language rights in the late 1960s when the civil rights and Black Power movement's language of rights became part of a national discourse on rights. Eventually, composition studies addressed language issues that were relevant for linguistically marginalized students. As a result of attention to linguistically marginalized students and forging relationships with radical leadership of the SNCC and the BPP, leftist and liberal compositionists learned to appreciate the political value of literacy. Consequently, composition studies adopted a language rights resolution in 1974 to validate students' right to communicate in their own dialects. The resolution, "Students' Right to Their Own Language," was immediately followed with a background statement justifying claims for students' right to their own language. The background was to diffuse the political nature of the document as well as to debunk myths that relegated Standard American English to superior status over other forms of communication, i.e. Black English. SRTOL also influenced the profession to politicize literacy. Unfortunately, the language rights resolution was not able to develop curricular practices that valued in totality the literate practices of racial and ethnic minorities. Thus, language rights in the teaching of writing would be contested in a series of journal articles in the mid 1970s. While some compositionists like James Sledd and Geneva Smitherman were calling for the continued use of language rights in the teaching of writing, others like Richard Allen contested its value. The contestation over language rights was part of larger assaults on the language of rights in the US. From the late 1960s to the 1980s the language of rights would expand, causing rights rhetoric to lose value outside and inside the ivory tower. Despite contestations over rights, in this dissertation, I argue for a return to rights in composition studies. I argue for its return by looking to critical race theory and rap music as ways to "retrieve" the value of rights rhetoric in composition studies.

Off-campus Download