Fall 2003

Rhetoric 275:  African American Public Address

Charles I. Nero, Ph.D
Department of Theater and Rhetoric
and the Programs in African American and American Cultural Studies
Bates College
207-786-6415 (office)
207-786-8332 (fax)

Office Hours:  WF 9:00 a.m.--11:00 a.m.

W 3:00 p.m.--4:00 p.m.


Required Texts:

Bebe Moore Campbell, Brothers and Sisters

David Howard-Pitney, The Afro-American Jeremiad

Readings, Viewings, and Listening Materials on the Internet and Reserve in Ladd Library

15%    Mid-Term Exam

20%    Final Exam

20%    Final Paper

25%    Response Papers (5)

10%    Attend W. E. B. Du Bois Symposium

10%    Class Participation

Bonus: Up to 10% for attending two lectures relevant to African American life and culture

This course is a study of the history of oratory and public addresses by African American women and men.  We examine religous, political, and ceremonial speeches.  This course pays particular attention to gender and the historical development of men and women's rhetorical traditions.

It is beyond the scope of this course to examine the totality of speeches given by African Americans from the late 18th century to the present.  So, we will examine a representative sample of speeches from issues and events affecting African Americans.

Theoretical Perspectives

Week 1

9/3    W   African American Oratory:  Introduction

9/5     F   Required Readings:

       Ernest J. Wrage, "Public Address: A Study in Social and Intellectual History," QJS 33 (1947): 451-457.

        Robert N. Bellah, "Civil Religion in America" in Russel E. Richey and Donald G. Jones (ed.), American Civil Religion (NY: Harper, 1974).

        Wilson J. Moses, "What Are Black Americans? More Than an Ethnic Group, Less Than a Nation," in Wilson J. Moses, The Wings of Ethiopia (Ames: Iowa                   State University Press, 1990)

       Optional Reading:

       Donald K. Enholm, David Curtis Skaggs, and W. Jeffrey Welsh, "Origins of the Southern Mind: The Parochial Sermons of Thomas Cradock of Maryland,                  1744--1770," Quarterly Journal of Speech 73 (1987): 200-218.

       Study Guide

Week 2   

9/8     M   African American Orators: Prophets, Mediators, and Saviors

       Derrick Bell, excerpt from Faces At the Bottom of the Well

       bell hooks, "Talking Back"

David Howard-Pitney (HP), Introduction, The Afro-American Jeremiad, pp. 3-16

 9/10   W    

Sidnie Ann White, "Esther: A Feminine Model for Jewish Diaspora." In Peggy L. Day (ed.), Gender and Difference in Ancient Israel.

The Old Testament Book of Esther

Optional Reading: Barry Weller, "The Royal Slave and the Prestige of Origins," Kenyon Review 14 (Summer 1992): 65-78



African American Orators Attack Slavery

9/12   F David Walker’s Appeal in Four Articles (1829)


Week 3


Maria Stewart's Farewell Address

 Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?"

Sarah Parker Remond, "Why Slavery Is Still Rampant" (1859) [This text is unavailable, so please read the speeches the follow.]

Frances Ellen Watkins, "Liberty for Slaves" (1857), Sojourner Truth, "Snakes and Geese" (1853), and

Sarah Mapps Douglass, "The Cause of the Slave Became My Own" (1832)


Henry Highland Garnet "An Address to the Slaves of the United States of America" (1843)


Eddie Glaude,  “‘Pharaoh’s on Both Sides of the Blood-Red Waters”: Henry Highland Garnet and the National Convention of 1843.”  Exodus! : Religion, Race, and Nation in Early Nineteenth-Century Black America  (Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2000): 143-159.



Frederick Douglass, "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" (1853)

HP, Chs. 1-2, pp. 17-52



Gender Issues, Mediation and Confrontation in Post-Bellum America

Week 4

9/22    M   Were Women Better Suited Than Men to Lead the Race?

                  Deborah Gray White, excerpt from Defending Our Name

                 Part 1: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice (We will view this film in class)

  Without Sanctuary a website about lynching photography and postcards in America

9/24     W   Part 2: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice (We will view this film in class)


9/26      F    Ida B. Wells  "Southern Horrors: Lynch Law"

                     "Lynch Law in All Its Phases" (1893)

                     HP, Ch. 3 pp. 72-87

                     Maggie Lena Walker, "Let Women Choose Her Own Vocation"

                     Elsa Barkley Brown, "Womanist Consciousness: Maggie Lena Walker and the Independent Order of St. Luke"


Week 5


9/29 M  Scott Joplin's Treemonisha

This opera by ragtime composer Scott Joplin is on reserve in Ladd Library.  It is approximately 90 minutes. Copies are available on three medium:

CD          COM XM 119 .J67 T74 1992

VHS        M1500.J665 T74 1982

Record    XM 119 .J67 T74 197   

10/1   W       Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery (1901) Chs. 1 &10

                     HP, Ch. 3, pp. 53-72

10/3     F      Washington, cont. Chapters, 13 &14

                     Charles I. Nero, "Transvesting at Atlanta: Booker T. Washington as Queen Esther"


Week 6

10/6    M

W. E. B. Du Bois The Souls of Black Folk  Forethought, and Chapters 1 and 3

Hazel Carby, excerpt from Race Men

For the next class view the documentary film, The Jubilee Singers: Sacrifice and Glory.
This film is on reserve in Ladd Library. It is 60 minutes. ML 421 .J77 J835 2000

For additional, but not required, you may listen to a variety of collections of spirituals. I recommend The Moses Hogan Chorale, Abide With Me COM XM 505 .M67 A2 1998, but many more collections are available. Do a subject search under the subject heading Spirituals (Songs)

10/8      W

The Souls of Black Folk, Chapters 13 and 14

Howard-Pitney , Ch.. 4, pp. 87-111

Discuss Mid-Term

10/10 Friday

Du Bois Symposium/ No Regular Class


Fall Break 10/15--10/17 No Classes

The Great Migration and African American Oratory

Week 8

M   10/20    Marcus Garvey
Marcus Garvey, Speech at Newport News Adobe Acrobat Reader needed to view this document

Listen to "Horizons:  Marcus Garvey" in class

View Film for Next Class:  Say Amen, Somebody  M2198 .S39 1984  (On Reserve)

W    10/22   Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune, "Clarifying Our Vision With the Facts" Adobe Acrobat Reader needed to view this document. "Last Will and Testament"

Photogallery of images of Bethune

HP, Ch. 5, pp. 111-132.

Th    10/23   Special Screening of Film: Say Amen, Somebody

F   Rev. C. L. Franklin

C. L. Franklin, "The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest"  Adobe Acrobat Reader needed to view this document.

In Class Listening, "The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest"



The Civil Rights Movement

Week 9

M  10/27    3/6   Martin Luther King, Jr. 


King, "I Have A Dream" and "Letter From a Birmingham Jail"

Keith D. Miller, "Epistemology of a Drum Major," Rhetoric Society Quarterly 18 (Summer-Fall, 1988):  225-236

Keith D. Miller, "Voice Merging and Self-Making: The Epistemology of 'I Have a Dream,'" Rhetoric Society Quarterly 19 (Winter 1989): 23-31. Adobe Acrobat Reader needed to view the Miller documents.

HP, Chs. 6-7, pp. 133-184..


W  10/29  Malcolm X and Stokeley Carmichael

Malcolm X, "The Ballot or the Bullet"

Stokeley Carmichael "Explains Black Power to a White Audience" and "Explains Black Power to a Black Audience"

 F  10/31  Fannie Lue Hamer

Fannie Lue Hamer, “Speech to the Democratic National Convention”

Bernice Johnson Reagon, "Women as Culture Carriers in the Civil Rights Movement: Fannie Lou Hamer". Adobe Acrobat Reader needed to view this document.


Post-Civil Rights Movement

Week 10

M   11/3    Examples from the Black Left:  Jesse Jackson, Audre Lorde, and Marlon Riggs

Readings:  Jesse Jackson, "Address Before the Democratic Convention, 1984 (Rainbow Coalition)"; Audre Lorde, "I Am Your Sister"; and "Marlon Riggs, "Ruminations of a Snap Queen:  What Time Is It?" (You need an Adobe Reader to view this speech.)

HP, Conclusion, pp. 185-194.

W  11/5   The Clarence Thomas Senate Confirmation Hearings

        Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas

F   11/7    Examples from the Black Right:  Clarence Pendleton, Colin Powell, and Condoleeza Rice

Charles I. Nero, "Clarence Pendleton and the Rhetoric of Paradox," The Howard Journal of Communications 3 (Winter/Spring 1992):  204-217. (You need an Adobe Reader to view this essay.)

Clarence Pendleton, "Address to the Akron Roundtable" (You need an Adobe Reader to view this speech.)

Colin Powell, "Remarks at the Republican Convention, 1996"

Colin Powell, "Remarks at the Republican Convention, 2000"

Condoleeza Rice, "Remarks at the Republican Convention, 2000"


Focus on Literature:  Bebe Moore Campbell and the Esther Tradition of Mediation

M    11/10  Bebe Moore Campbell, Brothers and Sisters

W   11/12   Bebe Moore Campbell, Brothers and Sisters

F    11/14   Bebe Moore Campbell, Brothers and Sisters


Thanksgiving Recess 11/22--11/30


M    12/1     Final Examples and Issues:
        Louis Farrakhan and the Million Man March

Study Guide for the Final Exam

Final Exam:  Tuesday, 3:45 p.m.