Power and Protests

Rhetoric scholar revisits the militant revolutions of the 1960s

(This article by Caroline Collier originally appeared in the 2017 issue of “Endeavors” magazine.)

Brad Lucas was born right after the Days of Rage, a 1969 spectacle in Chicago where frustrated protesters from the hippie counterculture staged a violent confrontation with police. Even though the associate professor of English was too young to understand, the protest signaled a turning point in tone for the social change movement.

Photo of Brad Lucas

Brad Lucas, associate professor of English (Carolyn Cruz)

Around the same time, scholars were conceiving a new field, the rhetoric of social protest. Pre-1960s rhetorical analysis focused on traditional forms of public communication, such as “formal speeches,” said Lucas who specializes in the academic field. “The rabble with their signs … wasn’t considered worthy.”

Television coverage in the 1960s changed the ways protesters conveyed their ideals. Scholars in rhetoric have since used the decade as a case study to expand understanding of how nontraditional political groups acquire influence over societal evolution.

Read more about the rhetoric of protest in Endeavors magazine.