African-American rhetoric

Understanding African American Rhetoric: Classical Origins to Contemporary Innovations, ed. by Ronald L. Jackson and Elaine B. Richardson. (Routledge, 2003).


The art of persuasion and effective communication as practiced by African-Americans.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "When one thinks about black public speech, one must consider a cultural history wherein the very act of black speaking (and writing) was subject to severe censure. Attempting to keep black folks in their place, the institution of slavery was erected and sustained by strict regulations against the kind of public rituals and practices that make an African-American rhetorical tradition possible. In the antebellum South, the very idea of an African-American 'public' was a virtual oxymoron. In the North, African-American orators were often beaten and killed for attempting to exercise the liberty of free speech. Thus, to conceive of African-American rhetoric is to think first of all the ways that an American public tried to squash it."
    (Eric King Watts, "African-American Rhetoric." Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, ed. by Thomas O. Sloane. Oxford Univ. Press, 2001)
  • "[C]ontrary to the depictions of passive, docile Africans promoted by White mass media, the most prevalent stance for the African American community has been one of resistance. Therefore, militant images more accurately reflect the reality of African American agency and the quest for Black manhood, which have always been a part of the African American experience within the spectrum of African American social and political thought. . . .

    "Implicit in the rhetoric of the mid-1800s was a sense of disconnection and separation from the nation's social and political structure and an acknowledgment of a common interest--that of defying and relieving the burden of oppression. Africans came to understand that, to this end, violent resistance was sometimes necessary. The rhetoric was delivered in speeches, letters, and newspapers, in private and public forums, and in actions."
    (Ella Forbes, "Every Man Fights for His Freedom: The Rhetoric of African American Resistance in the Mid-Nineteenth Century." Understanding African American Rhetoric: Classical Origins to Contemporary Innovations, ed. by R. L. Jackson and E. B. Richardson. Routledge, 2003)
  • "Clearly the most effective way for African Americans to regain a sense of sanity in the world is to reject dislocation and to reclaim our place as participants in the human drama. Enslavement, segregation, and political and economic oppression were meant to strip us of our sanity and to marginalize us forever. We have escaped both fates and are now poised to reassert an ethical leadership that derives from our own subject place, that is, seeing ourselves as agents in the world rather than objects or victims. This is the liberating, indeed liberalizing future that I see for African American rhetoric."
    (Molefi Kete Asante, "The Future of African American Rhetoric." Understanding African American Rhetoric, ed. by R.L. Jackson II and E. B. Richardson. Routledge, 2003)
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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "African-American rhetoric." ThoughtCo, Apr. 8, 2012, Nordquist, Richard. (2012, April 8). African-American rhetoric. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "African-American rhetoric." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 18, 2017).