The Struggle and the Tools

Oral and Literate Strategies in an Inner City Community

By Ellen Cushman

Subjects: African American Studies
Paperback : 9780791439821, 290 pages, October 1998
Hardcover : 9780791439814, 290 pages, October 1998

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Table of contents



Notational Devices

1. The Struggle and the Tools

2. Activist Methodology

3. African Americans and Quayville

4. The Language of Eviction

5. Institutional Language in an Inner City

6. "Racism Always on the Front of My Mind"

7. "An Everyday Fight for Us to Get Simple Respect"

8. The Transfer of Language in Gatekeeping Interactions

9. Evaluating the Tools

10. "Your Honor, I Just Can't Control Him Anymore"

11. Language and Power in the Everyday


Works Cited


Explores the daily lives of a group of inner city residents, focusing particularly upon their language use and other types of literate strategies used to gain resources, access to social institutions, and respect.


The Struggle and the Tools explores the daily lives and language use of African-American men, women, and children living in an inner city neighborhood. Based on three-and-a-half years of fieldwork, this book presents the oral, literate, and analytical strategies (the "tools") inner city residents use to gain resources, access to social institutions, and respect (the "struggle"). It honors both the types of agency present in the struggle, and the kinds of linguistic savvy present in the tools. It examines the deep games of power they play with their language and social consciousness and characterizes their daily experiences without glorification.

Ellen Cushman is a Senior Lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley.


"This book illuminates the complex ways in which inner city residents who might easily be labeled as illiterate, in fact, have both linguistic and rhetorical strategies that are sophisticated and effective. It's a fine example of what I think of as action research." — Andrea Lunsford, The Ohio State University