Writing Democracy across East Texas

Proposal: Anthology, Texas A&M University-Commerce Press:

WRITING DEMOCRACY IN EAST TEXAS: A History of Civic Engagement at Texas A&M University-Commerce (1889-1975)

The proposed anthology commemorates two major milestones in the history of Texas A&M-Commerce, both of which will occur in 2014.

  • 125 years ago, William L. Mayo established a teacher’s college to provide the region’s largely poor farmers and their families with access to higher education, “regardless of previous academic preparation or ability to pay” (Mayo College Catalog, 1896);
  • 50 years ago, this same campus became one of the last two public colleges in Texas to remove “White” as a primary criterion for admission.

The proposed collection will feature creative and scholarly work, alongside archival materials, that illustrate our university’s historical relationship with the surrounding community. Established in 1889 in direct response to community need, A&M-C’s 125-year history of providing local citizens with rhetorical training for civic engagement (Gold 2005, 2009; Carter 2012; Carter and Conrad 2012; Carter and Dent 2013) make it an ideal site for larger questions about a university’s responsibility to the community and a community’s potential influence on the university. To this end, the proposed anthology addresses a range of questions including the following:


  • How has this university developed in direct response to community need?
  • How has this university developed in direct response to events extending beyond the region? (ie: Reconstruction, the Great Depression, WWI, WWII, GI Bill, Truman Commission on Higher Education, the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, and so on)
  • How have local communities developed in direct response to the university?
  • Why/How/When/Where does the university matter to the community?
  • Why/How/When/Where does the community matter to the university?
  • In what ways has our campus partnered with the community to address issues of common concern?
  • In what ways have faculty members worked to engage their students in the local community–from research and creative works to community improvement efforts?
  • In what ways have students gotten involved in their local communities, often without the direct involvement of any faculty or administrators?
  • What can we learn about civic engagement in contemporary contexts by looking at historical examples within this particular university town?

The collection will offer significant insight into university-community relations from the perspectives of students, administrators, faculty, community leaders, long-time citizens, local activists, and the many generations of area minority residents who remained deeply committed to the university’s success long before their children or neighbors would be allowed to enroll in classes. Often residents of the area’s historically segregated neighborhoods, barred from the college as students, were the same individuals  who built the university, maintained its physical plant, fed its students, cleaned its buildings and the homes of the many faculty and administrators moving into the area over the decades.


Stories like these have much to teach us about community service and civic engagement. Remembering them, celebrating them, and ultimately learning from them is a key goal of this collection.


Commemorative Volume (print)



Publisher: Texas A&M University-Commerce


Edited by: Converging Literacies Center (CLiC)

Shannon Carter, with Kelly Dent, Nirajan Pyakurel, and Sunchai Hamcumpai


Publication Date: Summer 2014



This proposed anthology will be organized chronologically:

  1. Foreword: Why the Local Matters (David Gold, University of Michigan)
  2. Editor’s Introduction: Writing Democracy in East Texas (Shannon Carter)

Part I: Historic Examples of Civic Engagement

  1. 1889-1917: The Mayo Years (Chapter 1)
  2. 1918-1946: Building East Texas (Chapter 2)
  3. 1947-1965: The Gee Years (Chapter 3)
  4. 1966-1968: East Texas Activism (Chapter 4)
  5. 1969-1975: Civic Engagement (Chapter 5)

Part II: Lessons from the Past, Challenges for the Future

  1. Civic Engagement in the 21st Century (Chapter 6)
  2. The Writing Democracy Project: This We Believe (Chapter 7)
  3. Afterword: Writing Democracy in Local Contexts (Deborah Mutnick, Long Island University-Brooklyn, and Steve Parks, Syracuse University)


Each section will include the following:


  • a brief introduction to the period featured and the contributions included in that section, especially as they offer insight into a history of civic engagement across this region
  • original contributions (creative, scholarly, etc) that address some aspect of the collection’s theme with respect to the period featured in that section
  • archival images with relevant captions from archives, including excerpts from existing materials (local publications, oral histories, related documents) that might feature direct statements on theme from former students and faculty during this period or longer, encyclopedia-like entries drawn from more recent local publications like the Handbook of Commerce, Texas (1985), Professor Mayo’s College (1993), and a Pictorial History of Commerce, Texas (2010).  Also included will be excerpts about period by former students, especially as published in Memories of Old ET (2010), as well as relevant articles in area newspapers (Commerce Journal, ET Special, East Texan, Greenville Harald Banner, Dallas News, Dallas Morning News)
  • Existing publications, where possible and relevant, including scholarly publications our university’s history of civic engagement (David Gold, College English 2004; Southern Illinois UP, 2008; Shannon Carter, Community Literacy Journal 2012; Carter with James H Conrad, College Composition and Communication, 2012; Carter with Kelly L. Dent, College English, 2013), as well creative publications like selected poems (Susan Wood 1991, 1980, 2001; J. Mason Brewer) and excerpts from longer works (like Mark Busby’s recent Cedar Crossing).


About Writing Democracy

The collection takes its name from the Writing Democracy Project, a national initiative that began on our campus in March 2011 with a conference by the same name (“Writing Democracy: A Rhetoric of (T)here”). Since that time, the project has developed into a dynamic partnership of universities, cultural institutions, libraries, and community organizations across the nation eager to promote and sustain civic engagement for the betterment of everyone involved. Since that event, the Writing Democracy Project has gained national momentum, resulting in two additional workshops (March 2012 in St. Louis, MO, and March 2013 in Las Vegas, NV). For more information about this ongoing effort, visit writingdemocracy.org



About the Converging Literacies Center (CLiC)

CLiC is a research center established in 2007 to “promote a better understanding of how texts and related literacy practices may develop, sustain, or even erode civic engagement across local publics, especially among historically underrepresented groups” (CLiC Mission Statement). To this end, we have spent the last few years working closely with community members and archivists to recover, preserve, and widely circulate stories of civic engagement, especially concerning race relations (the subject of Shannon Carter’s second book project, Writing Across “Division Street”: Rhetorical Agency across the Long Civil Rights Movement in a Rural University Town). Given the milestones to celebrate in 2014, CLiC’s ongoing efforts to recover, preserve, and widely circulate these forgotten, often contested stories could hardly come at a better time.






The mission of the Converging Literacies Center (CLiC) is to promote a better understanding of how texts and related literacy practices may develop, sustain, or even erode civic engagement across local publics, especially among historically underrepresented groups. With a view toward promoting more robust public discussion, CLiC supports historical, theoretical, and empirical research on rhetoric and writing as manifested in everyday local contexts and over time. CLiC is highly attentive to new media’s role in our increasingly literate lives, thus projects emerging from and informing CLiC often engage new media as both object of inquiry and the form through which these findings are communicated. Likewise, CLiC develops educational and outreach initiatives designed to address relevant civic issues.


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