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How Words Lead to Justice: Modeling Language Change in Two Abolitionist Movements

Lauren F. Klein (Emory University)

Abstract:  Words matter—not only because they carry specific semantic meanings, but also because they index larger concepts and debates. But the work of elevating these words to the level of national discourse, such that they can be mobilized in the service of social justice or political change, is performed not by individuals but by collectives and coalitions, and takes place not in any single statement but instead over the course of many years. Can this process be tracked with any…

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