Andre Johnson’s study of the speeches of Henry McNeal Turner, from his optimistic Emancipation Day Address in 1866, to sober reflections on the fiftieth anniversary of the proclamation in 1913, is an important step in recovering the story of African-Americans in the South during Reconstruction. Framing Turner’s powerful words as examples of prophetic rhetoric, Johnson shows how even Turner’s most pessimistic comments spoke to a wide audience eager for freedom yet demoralized by prejudice, discrimination, and violence. Although Turner’s answer to the nation’s racism—emigration—did not become a major movement in his lifetime, Johnson’s study of Turner’s prophetic voice enlarges our understanding of this neglected, but important figure in American history.
Sandra J. Sarkela, The University of Memphis
Professor Johnson not only offers a new perspective on Reverend Turner by focusing on the rhetorical dimensions of words, but also suggests new and more precise ways for scholars to study the “prophetic” in the United States. Professor Johnson should be congratulated for offering the first and most nuance study of African American prophetic rhetoric of any black leader.
Edward J. Blum, co-author of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America
The critical lens that Dr. Johnson employs—of seeing Turner’s work as an evolution through prophetic stages, not only helps the reader understand Turner’s discourse but significantly enhances our understanding the different prophetic voices available to rhetors
Richard Leeman, author of The Teleological Discourse of Barack Obama