Sarah McGuire



Document Type



I propose to explore the rhetoric and language surrounding poor people of color both through common culture in literature and political speeches and documents of contemporary politicians between the years 1965 and 1992. I am particularly interested in the evolution of the Johnson administration’s War on Poverty between the 1970s and 1990s. Additionally, the Reagan administration’s tear down of the welfare system in the 1980s is another area of interest. I will specifically be examining how images of the poor have been manipulated in order to preserve the power of the elite and how portrayals of poverty shift in the given timeframe. I will be focusing on the portrayals of poor women of color. Then, through analysis of political speeches and media articles surrounding the Moynihan Report of 1965, and the elections of 1980 and 1992, I will evaluate the methods used by those in power to condemn the poor. Finally, I will discuss how literature both furthers and pushes against the changing perceptions and policies regarding poor people of color. This research will add to the knowledge of the ways governments utilize the power of language to maintain power and achieve social control and help locate the role of popular literary fiction in broader cultural debates.


Sociology and English

Thesis Comittee

Norma Anderson (Thesis Co-Director)

John Kucich (Thesis Co-Director)

Walter Carroll

Copyright and Permissions

Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.