Throughout much of American history, African Americans have been denied easy access to most of the traditional modes of effective reform, such as newspapers, legislative assemblies, unions and political parties. Public speaking has thus been one of the most critically important means by which leaders and individuals have reached an audience, enacted or prevented change, and created community. Dating from the earliest days of American history, the African American community has produced many notable and eloquent speakers and has demonstrated a vibrant oral tradition. The volume will follow a chronological organization, tracing the history of African American public speaking from colonial times to the present.
Richard W. Leeman is professor of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is the author of several books, including The Teleological Discourse of Barack Obama (Lexington), and the editor/author of several more, including African-American Orators: A BioCritical Sourcebook and The Will of A People: A Critical Anthology of Great African American Speeches.
Chapter 1: Liberty, Equality and Salvation: African Americans at the Start of the Nation
Chapter 2: All Manner of Reforms
Chapter 3: Emancipation, Segregation and Migration
Chapter 4: Lifting as We Climb: Advancing the Cause
Chapter 5: Waves of Reform and Revolution: The Modern Civil Rights Movement
Chapter 6: “I Am Somebody”: Public Speaking in the Age of Integration
Chapter 7: Barack Obama and the “Post-Racial” Society
Richard Leeman's To Reach the Nation's Ear: A History of African American Public Speaking is the book we have needed and have been waiting for in the field of public address. Drawing from his years of experience in studying African American rhetoric and public address, Leeman takes the reader from Colonial Times to the present to offer us a must-have introductory text that highlights some of the exemplars within the African American rhetorical tradition.
To Reach the Nation’s Ear: A History of African American Public Speaking illustrates the power and impact when Black orators brandish the nation’s egalitarian principles with eloquence and fire, and also helps us understand the rich and complex history of African American oratory. Scholars and students will find this book illuminating and useful in contexts where teaching and learning about Black history and rhetoric occur.
This is an extraordinarily valuable and timely book. Conversations about racial justice in the United States are most productive when they are informed by the rich history of African American public address, and this book offers a survey that is both sweeping and detailed. The elegant analyses emphasize the relevance of each individual text and the themes and arguments that cross eras and ideologies, preserving both the diversity and the cohesion that characterize African American oratorical traditions. Written in a clear and accessible style, and brimming with insights, this book is important for everyone interested in exploring, or more deeply appreciating, this essential history of compelling eloquence.
Leeman creates a masterful symphony of African-American rhetoric from colonial days to the present, incorporating both well-known voices and less familiar vocalists into an expansive rhetorical history punctuated by extended examples. Covering an impressive range of topics, this opus addresses not only the rhetorical evolutions of abolition to civil rights to Black Lives Matter, but also such topics as education, temperance, migration, woman suffrage, wars, and economics. By highlighting the creative, articulate, powerful Black voices holding a prominent place in American history, Leeman offers an accessible, well-researched volume constituting a valuable addition to the literature.
2/10/22, Choice: This book was featured in a roundup of upcoming titles in African American studies for 2022.
11/23/22, The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education: This book was featured in a roundup of recent books of interest for “African American Scholars.”
11/19/22, Publishers Weekly: This book was featured in a roundup of diverse reads.