Friday, August 31, 2012

On Ministers of the Gospel

from the Introduction of Africa and African Methodism
by Alfred Lee Ridgel
written by Henry McNeal Turner
March 20, 1896

Ministers of the gospel in the main no longer hunger and thirst for a profound knowledge of the Bible and a thorough familiarity with theological lore. The chief aim is to squeeze by the committees on examination and get to be deacons and elders, regardless of the necessary qualifications to meet the requirements therewith connected. And if they can flaunt a diploma from some third-class institution of learning, they feign to be insulted if a committee should subject them to a reasonable examination; and when once admitted into the ministry, study and protracted meditation cease to be a virtue. A large majority appear to be ignorant of the fact, that true education requires a lifetime of hard study, and that wit, anecdotes, florid sentences and a few rhetorical embellishments are no test of profundity, either in a literary or an intellectual aspect. Thousands of gospel ministers seem to think they can trick and cunning their way to the hearts of the people, or to their attention at least, and finally to a seat in heaven, without half of the proficiency required of a blacksmith, or a carpenter, or in any other mechanical profession, because it involves talk, forgetful that when talk is defective, or trivial and light, that the people will fully realize it and grade their intelligence and ability accordingly. I know of ministers carrying the title of D.D. who will go to bed at the earliest opportunity and lie there till ten and eleven o'clock next day and complain about not having time to read. Such moral sluggards God never intended to be the directors of His people. Ministerial fitness and fidelity call for industry, patience, endurance, invincibility and consecrated devotion, as well as the sacrifice of self, in all the phases that involve the individual himself, or his family and domestic relations. And in as much as his calling is infinitely more lofty than the statesman, the jurist, the warrior, the explorer, the inventor, the discoverer, or any other pursuit or profession of a secular nature, so his sacrifices heroism, adventures and risks should be infinitely more stupendous and mighty, especially so as Christ Jesus our Lord has promised to be with him till the world shall end.

Among the ministry of African descent in the United States, where they are found in the largest numbers outside of Africa proper, profundity, thoroughness, self-abnegation and the spirit of sacrifice, are at a discount that is alarming, especially in the light of divine revelation. Few of the American Africans, or negroes, if you prefer the term, are willing to make any sacrifice in a physical or secular manner for the amelioration of our condition. No one appears to be willing to sacrifice life, money, or even risk any bodily comforts for the betterment of the masses. No self-protecting organizations exist, no secret pass-words, or forms of expression have been agreed upon as a call to rally to each other's defense when the bloody lynchers are doing their work of death and destruction among our people. And even when one would dare to enter a protest against existing evils, they will fly to the North and play the scullion through the day and write a tissue of abuses at night which is of no practical benefit. It is useless, however, to draw a picture of existing things in a material and moral point of view. The American black man is without a single hero. Indeed, the bulk of them have no proper conception of the meaning of the term.

Churchiologically, the same condition of things exists. The only aspiration for fame, honor and immortality that exists to an insignificant exception is at the expense of others. Many of the pastors will build large churches on credit and have their names engraved on the corner-stone, and hasten away for another minister and the congregation to pay the debt. Those who aspire to distinction in the ranks of the ministry, do so almost invariably through the votes of others, seeking to be elected to the Bishopric, or to some general office, instead of aspiring to distinction by writing hymns or learned works on Theology, Astronomy, Geology, Geography, Chemistry, Intellectual and Moral Philosophy, or delivering a series of lectures on Ancient History, or delving into the labyrinths of Archaeology and
establishing the claims of nature to the primitive color of man, and showing through it that all men started black and remained so till God said, "Let there be white," just as He said "Let there be light."

No honors conferred can equal those that come through merit, but meritorious honor and distinction are at a low ebb among negro ecclesiastics, because it involves, as we have said before, an amount of labor, patience, self-abnegation and sacrifice, which is foreign to the age, and especially to the American black man.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Turner Supported a "Fair Hearing" of Lincoln's Emigration Proposal

Here is an article from the New York Times Disunion page that highlights Turner's support for a "fair hearing" of President Lincoln's emigration plan in 1862.

Those interested in the history of abolition and racial equality would find few incidents in Lincoln’s presidency as dispiriting as the president’s Aug. 14, 1862, meeting with a delegation of five black men from Washington. It was dispiriting then as well: to the dismay of those hoping the Civil War would lead to full citizenship for African-Americans, Lincoln informed the delegation that “you and we are different races” and proposed that the five men be progenitors of a black colony the government would establish in Chiriquí, a region of what is now Panama.

Historians have debated Lincoln’s remarks and their context for decades. It was once conventional to claim that Lincoln’s proposal was an attempt to appease conservatives while he pursued the policy he truly believed in: a presidential proclamation of emancipation. But the more recent consensus is that Lincoln was speaking very much in character. The “Great Emancipator” was one of the many white Americans of the era who believed that if slavery were abolished, a “race war” would inevitably ensue. Since the United States was destined to be a white nation, emancipation must be accompanied by the emigration of freedpeople out of the United States.

For all the attention to Lincoln’s ideas and motivations, however, there has been very little focus on the delegates’ side of the story. For decades no one even knew who they were, much less what they stood for. Drawing on the work of the historian Benjamin Quarles, many believed that four of the five delegates were uneducated former slaves, hand-picked by Lincoln and his colonization commissioner, James Mitchell, to be pliable and subservient.
Read the rest here

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

God is a Negro

This was the response that Henry McNeal gave in which a newspaper editorial called him demented for saying that God is a Negro.

Voice of Missions, 1898

We have as much right biblically and otherwise to believe that God is a Negro, as you buckra, or white, people have to believe that God‘ is a fine looking, symmetrical and ornamented white man. For the bulk of you, and’ all the fool Negroes of the country, believe that God is white- skinned, blue-eyed, straight-haired, projecting-nosed compressed-lipped and finely-robed white gentleman sitting upon a throne somewhere in the heavens.

Every race of people since time began who have attempted to describe their God by words, or by paintings, or by carvings, or by any other form or figure have conveyed the idea that the God who made them and shaped their destinies was symbolized in themselves, and why should not the Negro believe that he resembles God as much as other people? We do not believe that there is any hope for a race of people who do not believe that they look like God.

Demented though we be, whenever we reach the conclusion that God or even that Jesus Christ, while in the flesh, was a white man, we shall hang our gospel trumpet upon the willow and cease to preach.

We had rather be an atheist and believe in no God or a pantheist and believe that all nature is God, than to believe in the personality of a God and not believe that He is Negro. Blackness is much older than whiteness, for black was here before white, if the Hebrew word, coshach, or chasack, has any meaning. We do not believe in the eternity of matter, but we do believe that chaos floated in infinite darkness or blackness, millions, billions, quintillions and eons of years before God said, “Let there be light,” and that during that time God had no material light Himself and was shrouded in darkness, so far as human comprehension is able to grasp the situation.

Yet we are no stickler as to God‘s color, anyway, but if He has any we should prefer to believe that it is nearer symbolized in the blue sky above us and the blue water of the seas and oceans; but we certainly protest against God being a white man or against God being white at all; abstract as this theme must forever remain while we are in the flesh. This is one of the reasons we favor African emigration, or Negro nationalization, wherever we can find a domain, for as long as we remain among whites, the Negro will believe that the devil is black and that he (the Negro) favors the devil, and that God is white and the (the Negro) bears no resemblance to Him, and the effect of such a sentiment is contemptuous and degrading, and one-half of the Negro race will be trying to get white and the other half will spend their days trying to be white men’s scullions in order to please the whites; and the time they should be giving to the study of such things will dignify and make our race great will be devoted to studying about how unfortunate they are in not being white.

We conclude these remarks by repeating for the information of the Observer what it adjudged us demented for — God is a Negro.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Turner on Voting Rights

Here is the response from Turner and others after the Georgia Legislature expelled all the black representatives from office on September 3, 1868.

From: An African American Pastor During Reconstruction, Vol 3,(Forthcoming, 2013)

To the Colored Voters of Georgia.—the rights guaranteed to us by the constitution of our state, and by the constitution and laws of the United States, have been unlawfully and arbitrarily torn from us by one branch of the General Assembly, a body created and established very largely by our votes, and that at the risk, in many instances, of starvation and death. The Democratic party, having, by refusing the colored members that right to vote, unlawfully obtain a large majority in the House of Representatives, have decided, by a…. resolution, in defiance of the constitution and laws of the United States, and of the state of Georgia, that colored men have no right to represent their race in the General Assembly, and have accordingly ejected them from their seats. By this act they have ignored our rights of citizenship and representation, rights established by the constitution and laws, and recognized by every sound and impartial jurist in the country….. By this act, nearly 100,000 taxed voters of Georgia are deprived of their right of representation, contrary to the cardinal principle of a Republican government. We have good reason to apprehend that this is only the prelude to what we may expect at the hands of the Democratic party; as they neither regard our established rights, as citizens, and electors, or our condition and claims as freemen. In several counties we were advise by those we thought honest Democrats to elect colored representatives rather than loyal white men, while in several other counties not a white Republican could be found, or any white man who would accept the colored nomination; yet we are now censured and expelled for doing the best we could. And what is more astonishing, a number of white representatives, who were professed Republicans at home, since their arrival here have become decided Democrats. In view of this state of things, we call upon the colored men of every county in this state to send delegates to a state convention of colored citizens, to be held in the city of Macon, on the first Tuesday in October, 1868, for the purpose of taking into consideration our condition, and determining upon the best course for the future. There can be no doubt that our personal liberty is in as great danger as our civil and political rights. The same power which would override the constitution in one thing will do it in another. It is, therefore, a solemn duty which every colored man owes to himself, his family, and his country, to maintain his manhood and his right of citizenship. It is our duty to meet and invoke Congressional aid in the security of our rights. Rally, then, rally, colored voters, for your rights, your citizenship, and your personal liberty! Send your delegates with sufficient funds to remain until the business of the convention is completed. Guard against all disturbances, as this is a moral contest, a bloodless battle. Drunkards and fools fight in person; sober and wise men fight with thoughts and words.

As soon as this notice comes to band, begin to get your delegates ready.

H.M. Turner, President C. and P. R. Association. James Porter, Secretary.

Turner Testifying in Congress about Voter Supression

In light of the voting suppression tactics going on right now across the country, we thought we would share some of Henry McNeal Turner's testimony on the subject. Given on November 3, 1871 before a joint select committee of Congress, the session titled "The Condition of Affairs of Georgia during Reconstruction" exposed much. Needless to say, voter suppression is not a new thing.

From: An African American Pastor During Reconstruction: The Literary Archive of Henry McNeal Turner, Vol 3 (Forthcoming 2013).

They got altogether probably about thirty colored democrats. Well, they would carry them into a room and put a cloak on them, bringing them out and vote them, and then carry them back again and put a high hat on, and bring them out and vote them again; then carry them back and put on a slouch hat and bring them out and vote again. In this way repetition after repetition went on. All the wagoners that came in with cotton and other produce, everybody, whether he belonged there or not, was voted. I am satisfied there were seven or eight hundred illegal votes given there. I do not think there are more than sixteen hundred or seventeen hundred democrats in the county of Bibb, yet on that occasion they polled twenty-seven hundred votes. There may have been some fraudulent votes on our part. We have some twenty-five hundred votes in that county that we know of, and we voted twenty-seven hundred votes at that election. Probably we may have voted some fraudulent votes. There may have been some repeating; they saw the democrats were doing it, and I dare say some of our men did the same. For about three hours before the election closed it was just one repetition, voting everything. I saw seven white men vote twice. They would go up and vote, and then go around and laugh and talk and say that they had voted four times in that way. Long was standing there and witnessing how they were changing the dress of the few democratic negroes they had there; and Fitzpatrick witnessed the same. I could not begin to describe the scene of the last evening for about three hours before the election closed. If we had had a fair election we would have beaten them by five or six hundred votes; but in consequence of not having a fair election we beat them upon the average only about thirty-eight votes. The law of our state says that in the event a contest is made against those claiming the election, the ballot-box can be opened only in the presence of the judge of the superior court, or whatever judge is presiding at that time, and the tickets counted or examined, as the case may be. A few days after the election I was passing down the street, and a white gentleman came up to me and said, “Turner, I will tell you something, but don’t you tell my name.” I said, “What?” He said, “They have got the ballot-box up in that room, [pointing to a building,] and I think it is a damned shame.” I went up stairs to see if it was the fact. When I got to the door, I thought I would knock at first, but I concluded that they would come there and ask what I wanted, and perhaps not let me in. So I pulled open the door and walked right in. There were two men sitting there with their faces toward the fire, another was sitting back in a corner, and the ballot-box was on the table, and the whole table was strewn over with ballots, and there was a man sitting down at a little table writing. They all looked up when I came in, and one of them asked, “What do you want?” I said, “I wanted to see some gentlemen, but I see that they are not here.” I took a good look around, and then went on out about my business. I think probably the notice had been given already that the election would be contested. A few days after that we were summoned to appear and proceed with the contest, and a few days after that we commenced to take evidence. They had parties there who swore that this man was not of age, according to their best knowledge and belief; and that that man and the other was not qualified to vote, for some reason or other; some men would get up and swear that such and such man, whose name appeared on the list, lived in this county or that county or the other county. One man would swear against ten or fifteen names, I suppose. That is the kind of testimony upon which we are now ejected from our seats.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Man Named Turner

From: Africa and African Methodism-Alfred Lee Ridgel, 1896

RT. REV. H. M. TURNER, D.D., D.C.L., LL.D.

We shall not enter into minute details in this brief delineation of the life of Bishop Turner, who is such a familiar character to even the ordinary reader of American history. We do not mean to impress the reader that the history of our subject is confined to the narrow limits of the American continent, for the life, labor, and genius of Bishop Turner has gone forth to help make up the history of the world.

The birth, education, and early history of Bishop Turner has been beautifully given in "Men of Mark," a book written by Dr. W. J. Simmons, of Kentucky. We shall, however, notice the leading events in the life of our distinguished prelate.

First, let us see him as chaplain of the United States army, commissioned by the illustrious Lincoln to go on the field amidst the smoke and fire of contending armies and do service for his country, his God, and his race. Did he shrink, and say, I can't go? No. Such words never fall from the lips of Bishop Turner. He regards no sacrifice too great, no peril too dangerous, no enemy too hostile when duty calls. He has answered to every emergency during his eventful life. The race has found him a leader, indeed. Braver than Douglass, more heroic than Payne, superior to Langston, Bruce, Lynch, and Bassett in intellect and moral courage, he easily takes a place at the head of the race column.

After the brave Union soldiers had whipped the slave-dealing rebels of the South, when four million poor, homeless, ignorant, and depraved negroes were turned loose to die, when the reconstruction period opened, we see Elder Turner, as he was then known, among the first to espouse the cause of his fellow-men, whose wounds were yet bleeding and whose hearts were aching over the very thoughts of the cruel bondage through which they had passed. He was active, brave, and honest as a politician; he was fearless and eloquent on the legislative floor; he made his opponents fear and honor him as but very few men could do.
Second, let us notice Dr. Turner as a preacher, organizer, etc., during the early history of African Methodism in the State of Georgia. He was the leading spirit in all the great movements of the church, he received thousands; forty thousand of members into the connection, erected numbers of places of worship, and is to-day regarded the "founder of African Methodism in Georgia." He was once Presiding Elder for the entire State of Georgia, where to-day we have four Annual Conferences, hundreds of traveling ministers, and thousands of members. Georgia is prolific for African Methodism. As a preacher, Dr. Turner had but few if any equals; as an organizer, he was the very embodiment of success. His whole soul went out for his God, his church, and his race.

Third, we see our subject at Philadelphia, at the head of the "Book Concern," one of the most difficult departments of the connection. Possibly the Christian Recorder was never so extensively circulated as when Dr. Turner was manager. This was mainly due to his prestige and influence throughout the connection. No man in the A. M. E. Church has so great influence over the masses of our church membership and race as Bishop Turner. He says just what he pleases, and everybody rushes to hear what he has to say. He was very successful as manager of our "Book Concern," from which position be was elected to the high, sacred, and responsible office of Bishop, in the city of St. Louis, Mo., May, 1880.

As a Bishop, he is the most interesting man on the bench. Educationally, he is not the superior of Bishops Tanner and Lee; as an orator, he is not the equal of Bishop Ward*, (Bishop Ward, the great orator, passed away June 10, 1894) the most eloquent orator of the church; as a revivalist, he is not the superior of Bishop Grant; but as a parliamentarian, organizer, church extender, writer, lecturer, and author he is in advance of any man within our church circles. More people, white and colored, seek his company, ask for his opinion on church and race issues, than any man of the race. While he is greatly beloved, most sought, most idolized by his friends, he is also the most berated, most criticized, and most hated by his enemies. Bishop Turner, however, has but few enemies among the progressive and race-loving people. His opposition comes from those who are narrow, deceitful, and treacherous.

As an editor, Bishop Turner is first-class. His name at the masthead of an organ is a true signal of success. This fact was more than demonstrated during his editorial management of the Southern Christian Recorder. That paper was rapidly gaining grounds, and was destined to be the great mouth-piece for the Southern division of the church. The late Dr. M. E. Bryant kept the paper prominently before the public until his untimely demise, when alas! it began to wane, and to-day is more of an air-castle than a real church organ.

That wonderful book, "Methodist Polity," alone would immortalize Bishop Turner. It is by far the most valuable production given the church. What book within our church limits met such a warm and universal reception. What publication has brought the same amount of revenue to the church coffers? What book can fill its place? None. "Methodist Polity" is a work that even Bishop Turner's persecutors must bow before and acknowledge its greatness.
We are not unmindful of the other splendid works produced by our ministers, such as "Apology for African Methodism," by the scholarly Bishop Turner; "Digest of Theology," by the erudite Dr. Embry; "Divine Lagos," by the classical Dr. Johnson; "Relation of Baptized Children to the Church," by the profound Dr. Coppin; but even these authors will give Bishop Turner the palm.

One of the most important chapters in the history of Bishop Turner's life was his visit to Africa, and organizing the Sierra Leone and Liberia Annual Conferences. For years the church had manifested a desire to organize work on the shores of our fatherland; as an expression of that desire Rev. J. R. Frederick had been duly commissioned and sent to Sierre Leone to organize there and elsewhere in the country. The late Bishop R. H. Cain (Bishop R. H. Cain was a great man) preparing to visit Africa, but was called from labor to reward before he could execute his desires; hence it was left for him, who had contributed to all the measures of the church to mount the high seas and organize two Annual Conferences in Africa. Bishop Turner's presence in Africa was hailed with shouts of ecstatic joy; his success was a signal one; he at once received one of the ablest men of the Wesleyan Church into our connection, which of itself gave new impetus to the work.

During this episcopal visit Bishop Turner wrote a series of letters which were published in the Christian Recorder. These letters furnished more information on Africa than had ever been known by the church before. His letters at once became famous; men and women, white and black, church members and sinners, all rushed for Bishop Turner's letters. The energetic Dr. Smith, of the S. S. U., compiled and published the entire series in pamphlet form and has sold hundreds and thousands of them.

Bishop Turner is regarded by the English and African people as being the greatest man of the race. This fact was evidenced in part when the Liberia College conferred upon him the degree of D.C.L. The Bishop enjoyed reasonable health during his first African trip. When we consider the immense amount of work that he accomplished with but little help, we are astonished. He was accompanied by Rev. T. R. Geda, who did not survive until the Bishop reached the shores of America.

The organization of African Methodism in Africa constitutes a very important chapter in the history of our great connection and will stand as an ever lasting monument to the memory of Bishop H. M. Turner. We are sorry to note, however, the woeful indifference our church has manifested toward the distant branch of her own planting in Africa. But God who rules the destiny of nations will protect, succor and advance our church in Africa until she can stand alone and take her place among the great denominations of the world.

While Bishop Turner is great in learning; great in heroism; he also has a great big, warm heart that cannot harbor deceit, hatred and kindred sins. A greater humanitarian never breathed the breath of life. He is free from pomposity, self-importance, so peculiar to men of high standing in Church and State. No one need fear to approach Bishop Turner. He accords every right and honor upon those who stubbornly oppose his cause; to crush an unfortunate brother is too small a thing for this great man to do. His hand is always extended toward the weak and fallen. If obedience to the Golden Rule: "Do unto all men as you would have them do unto you," make men great of heart, warm with love, exemplary and noble, Bishop Turner is one of the noblest men of the world. Who will charge Bishop Turner with being despotic, even when despotism might be excusable? Who will dare charge our subject with usurpation, or anything along that line? Instead of being guilty of the foregoing crimes, he is guilty of unmeasured indulgence, often using prayer, patience, advice, exhortation, to save an offending brother, when the discipline would appear to be the only means of adjustment. Along this line of Christian dealings, many have attempted to brand Bishop Turner with recklessness as to the moral interest of the church. Such allegations fall to the ground for want of scriptural support. What man can be too forgiving? Our very nature is revengeful. We crave to retaliate every personal insult, and nothing but God's spirit can control our wicked passions. In these particular graces Bishop Turner seems to have excelled.

Externally, Bishop Turner is a rough man. Unpretentious, always in a hurry, but never leaving before the time; plain of speech, piercing voice, somewhat tremulous; large in stature, presenting at once the appearance of a master intellect, a brave leader, a mighty champion for the right. Short acquaintance, however, does not develop the many admirable elements or graces in the make-up of Bishop Turner. The longer the acquaintance, the more familiar and intimate the life and dealings with this great man, the greater will be the love and reverence for him.

It has been our good pleasure to attend him on three continents--America, England and Africa. He retains
his individuality everywhere. He is strictly himself. I have seen him in America amidst his persecuted race, pouring out an avalanche of denunciations upon those who were guilty of their (his race's) innocent blood. I have seen him amongst the crowned heads of England pleading for the same oppressed people; and whether in negro-hating America, or strolling through the graveyard-like Westminster Abbey, or investigating the mysteries of the British Museum, or trudging beneath the tropical sun of Africa among his heathen brethren, he is the same common, plain, persevering, polemic Bishop Turner.

Bishop Turner is to the A. M. E. Church what Julius Caesar was to the Roman Empire. Caesar carried the Roman ensign where none but him could have carried it. He swung up the brazen eagle where none but Caesar could have defended it. He gave to Rome territory, dominion and wealth as no other man did. Returned to Rome amidst pomp and splendor, to see all that mighty Empire rejoice over his splendid triumphs. But alas! Jealousy, hatred, murder began brewing in the hearts of those who claimed to be his friends, and soon we see mighty Caesar losing his life blood at the foot of Pompey's statue in the Roman Senate, caused by a thrust from the swords of Cassius and Brutus.

But we do not compare the great A. M. E. Church to the wicked Roman Empire; we cannot believe that our good Bishop has such a dreadful foe as Brutus; but we do believe that ere long a mighty host of young African Methodists will arise and vindicate the course of Bishop Turner. Two continents will join in the great acknowledgment of his wonderful deeds--Africa and America. Native Africans with six hundred thousand African Methodists will shout the grand acclaim, Henry McNeal Turner, the dauntless pioneer Bishop, has conquered despite man and devil.

P. S.--Since writing the above Bishop Turner has made his third visit to Africa, looking the very picture of health. He preached and lectured with uncommon power during his stay in Africa. His presence was hailed with extreme delight by all. May God bless and preserve him yet many years to push forward the work of the church.

Graduate Work that focus on Henry McNeal Turner

If you are in grad school and looking for a good figure to examine, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner makes for a good study. As you will note from below, Bishop Turner still lacks the attention of some of his contemporaries.

Works on Turner

The Prophetic Oratory of Henry McNeal Turner /

Author: Johnson, Andre E. Publication: 2008

Dissertation: Thesis (Ph.D)--University of Memphis, 2008.

Black Nationalism and Theodicy : a Comparison of the Thought of Henry Highland Garnet, Alexander Crummell, and Henry McNeal Turner /

Author: Holmes, James Arthur. Publication: 1997

Dissertation: Thesis (Th. D.)--Boston University, 1997.

Henry McNeal Turner and black religion in the South, 1865-1900 /

Author: Angell, Stephen Warder. Publication: 1988

Dissertation: Thesis (Ph. D.)--Vanderbilt University, 1988.

The Black Nationalism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner (1860-1900) /

Author: Foster, Toussaint. Publication: 1976

Dissertation: Thesis (M.A.) Queens College. Department of History.

The Life of Henry McNeal Turner, 1834 to 1870 /

Author: Martin, Elbert T.

Publication: [Tallahassee, Fla.] : Martin, 1975

Dissertation: Thesis (M.A.)--Florida State University.

The Rhetoric of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, leading advocate in the African emigration movement, 1866-1907 /

Author: Cummings, Melbourne Stenson,

Dissertation: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of California, Los Angeles, 1972.

Henry McNeal Turner, Exponent of American "Negritude".

Author: Herndon, Jane Walker,

Publication: [Atlanta] 1967

Dissertation: Thesis (M.A.)--Georgia State College.

The Forgotten Prophet: Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American Prophetic Tradition

By Andre E. Johnson
 I discovered Bishop Henry McNeal Turner by accident. While starting a seminar class in rhetorical criticism and trying to hone in on a dissertation topic, I ran across a speech delivered by Turner. He delivered the speech on the floor of the Georgia House of Representatives as the House debated whether African Americans could hold office in the state of Georgia. I remember reading the speech and wondering if anyone had studied Turner’s rhetoric.
However, there was a problem. Since Turner lived during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was my belief that texts to study Turner would be difficult to find. Turner, like many of his contemporaries during this time, spoke extemporaneously—not from notes or prepared texts. Moreover, unlike many other speakers during this time, Turner did not travel with a stenographer—or someone who could have written what Turner said for later publication. Going into my project, I only hoped there were enough texts to do a solid dissertation.
Imagine my surprise when I found that Turner was one of the most prolific writers and speakers during his time and that much of his writings were not lost to history. Turner published copious amounts of material for the newspapers, magazines, and journals of his day. Turner lectured throughout the country and wrote extensively on his travels to Africa. In short, many would consider Turner a public intellectual in today’s definition of the term.
Sadly, many today have not heard of Turner—even within the AME Church. Indeed, it is as if Turner has been lost to history. I found myself always explaining to people who Turner was and why I thought, at least, he was so important. In writing, "The Forgotten Prophet: Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American Prophetic Tradition," one of my aims is to (re) introduce Turner to contemporary audiences as well as to recover a lost voice within American and African American history.
I do this by locating Turner within the African American prophetic tradition and examining how Turner adopts prophetic personas throughout his career. As one of America’s earliest black activists and social reformers, Bishop Turner made an indelible mark in American history and left behind an enduring social influence through his speeches, writings, and prophetic addresses. This text offers a definition of prophetic rhetoric and examines the existing genres of prophetic discourse, suggesting that there are other types of prophetic rhetorics, especially within the African American prophetic tradition. In examining these modes of discourses from 1866-1895, this study further examines how Turner’s rhetoric shifted over time. It examines how Turner found a voice to article not only his views and positions, but also in the prophetic tradition, the views of people he claimed to represent.
My goal is to demonstrate how Turner’s rhetorical trajectory shifted throughout his career—moving from someone who was optimistic about the prospects of African Americans and America in general immediately after the Civil War, to one who became pessimistic about the prospects of African Americans and America near the end of his life. I do this by offering a close reading of four speech texts of Turner—two early in his career and two later. Each speech text makes up a chapter and my central argument is that Henry McNeal Turner adopted a prophetic persona and used prophetic rhetoric to move, transform, encourage, uplift, and challenge his audiences. In the concluding chapter, I offer a brief examination of Turner’s career after 1895, a summary of my findings, and Turner’s place within the prophetic tradition. It is my hope that in examining Turner by weaving both text and context together for analysis, this exercise will become a springboard for further understanding and study on one of the most important figures in American public address in the nineteenth century.  

Andre E. Johnson is the Dr. James L. Netters Professor of Rhetoric & Religion and African American Studies at Memphis Theological Seminary. He is currently editing a proposed 12 volume series on the works of Bishop Turner under “The Literary Archive of Henry McNeal Turner.” He is also the editor of the Rhetoric Race and Religion blog and Senior Pastor of Gifts of Life Ministries in Memphis, Tennessee.

New Book on Bishop Henry McNeal Turner

The Forgotten Prophet: Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American Prophetic Tradition, by Andre E. Johnson, is a study of the prophetic rhetoric of 19th century African Methodist Episcopal Church bishop Henry McNeal Turner. By locating Turner within the African American prophetic tradition, Johnson examines how Bishop Turner adopted a prophetic persona. As one of America’s earliest black activists and social reformers, Bishop Turner made an indelible mark in American history and left behind an enduring social influence through his speeches, writings, and prophetic addresses. This text offers a definition of prophetic rhetoric and examines the existing genres of prophetic discourse, suggesting that there are other types of prophetic rhetorics, especially within the African American prophetic tradition. In examining these modes of discourses from 1866-1895, this study further examines how Turner’s rhetoric shifted over time. It examines how Turner found a voice to article not only his views and positions, but also in the prophetic tradition, the views of people he claimed to represent. The Forgotten Prophet is a significant contribution to the study of Bishop Turner and the African American prophetic tradition.