African American sacred rhetoric: An African American homiletic style informed by Western tradition

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African American sacred rhetoric: An African American homiletic style informed by Western tradition

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Title: African American sacred rhetoric: An African American homiletic style informed by Western tradition
Author: Evans, Joseph Norman
Advisor: Akin, Daniel L.
Abstract: This dissertation examines the relationship between a stream of African American preaching and a stream of Western tradition. In this instance, Western tradition is narrowed to some aspects and characteristics of Scottish Belle Lettres rhetorical tradition. Chapter 1 discusses African American preaching and suggests that it is not a monolithic art form. In addition, several terms are defined. African American sacred rhetoric is defined as a stream of African American preaching that appropriates some aspects of Western tradition for purposes of achieving social and political integration into the larger society.

Chapter 2 begins with a historical trace of Scottish Belle Lettres. Three primary headings are listed: Elocutionary Movement, Quintilian rhetoric and Hugh Blair and his lectures, on Rhetoric and Belle Lettres. Specifically, this chapter clarifies the significant contributions that Belle Lettres had for Scottish citizens' successful integration into the eighteenth century civil society of Britain. A similar practice of integration was achieved by way of rhetoric in preaching by some African Americans preachers over a course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries into American civil society.

Chapter 3 discusses a starting point for African American sacred rhetoric. Frederick Douglass is a primary figure in this chapter. His cultural background and discovery of the power of literacy, his worldview and intellectual development serve as a model for why some African Americans turned to rhetoric. For Douglass, forms of rhetoric served as a tool on the public platform and sacred pulpit. In his addresses and messages, Douglass used biblical passages and secular documents to argue for freedom.

Chapter 4 examines several preachers and practitioners of African American sacred rhetoric. Thirty sermons, speeches or articles were analyzed to substantiate these claims. These practitioners are Alexander Crummell, Francis J. Grimke, Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., and Mordecia W. Johnson, Joseph H. Jackson and Gardner C. Taylor.

This work contends that a civil integration was achieved because a segment of American culture embraced African American men of letters who used their pulpits and the public platform to persuade religiously and politically for achieving human uplift. This art form is best described as a form of civil discourse that persuades in public and sacred space for transforming socio-political and socio-economic aspects of society.

Description: This item is only available to students and faculty of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. If you are not associated with SBTS, this dissertation may be purchased from or downloaded through ProQuest's Dissertation and Theses database if your institution subscribes to that service.
Date: 2005-09-01

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