After being selected from departmental nominations across the college, Holmes will now go through the selection round at the American Council of Learned Societies.
Read more about Holmes’ far-reaching project and his further plans for the research:
“My research interests are in early African American rhetoric, literacy, and language. I investigate the narratives of my early ancestors to illuminate the methods they used to negotiate their voices into public discourse through a centering of a Black worldview. My current project, ‘Black Diplomatic Rhetoric,’ outlines what I describe as a ‘diplomatic rhetoric’ that black speakers/writers used to expose the dominant society’s anti-black sentiments about Black material and spiritual exclusion in early America. I describe my work as seeking to understand the diachronic evolution of early African American rhetoric, tracing rhetorical shifts from negotiating directly to influential white audiences to speaking to and for a robust and growing consequential Black and public demographic at the turn of the nineteenth century. Even though my work is grounded in rhetorical theory and early African American cultural history, I find it especially important for understanding the United States’ contemporary ills, such as police brutality and voter suppression, among others. The lasting moan of #blacklivesmatter, for instance, has permeated within every African American generation, continuing calls for a more equitable and just society. In other words, the social justice engagement of the twenty-first century isn’t new but part of a long narrative in which African Americans have had to constantly argue for their humanity.
While I am still researching and writing more and more on my current project, I envision it as a public-facing book project that could aid in amplifying our understanding of the early Black experience in colonial America. My work seeks to center Black voices during this timeframe, and I see my work as having lasting contributions not only to African American rhetoric studies, but indeed the ways in which we view early American history, its promises, and its failures.”