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"Women Step Forward!": Doing Rhetorical Historiography by Exploring Womanist Leadership in the AME Church



In a denomination with two female bishops, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church seems to be progressive in the trajectory of women's roles in the Church. However, there is still more work to do as women's voices are continuously bombarded, overlooked, or even pushed out of the conversation. With this in mind, how can women work to advance their position in the denomination? While some men, such as Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, fought for the inclusion of women in every aspect of the leadership of the AME Church, the seeds of inclusion were planted, watered, and harvested by the women of the denomination. This chapter will focus on historical examples of women pushing forth as rhetors in the AME Church—Jarena Lee, Sarah (Sallie) Ann Copeland Hughes, Hallie Quinn Brown, and Jamye Coleman Williams.
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"Black Pioneers in Communication Research is a pathbreaking book that displays a refreshingly joyful and critical spirit. Here, communication theory is shown to be the work of real persons living real lives, asking real questions of real problems. By celebrating and evaluating the lives of Black scholars as they have sought to advance communication studies, readers are introduced to perhaps the first truly foundational text our field has to offer! By tracing pioneers’ life histories up to their current contributions to the field of communication, students will not simply be exposed to a concept and its definition, but rather invited to explore the evolution of both the concept and its progenitor. This illuminates and enlivens the study of communication while helping readers to be conscious of the conditions that have helped to shape our current state of knowledge. Black Pioneers in Communication Research is fully edifying: It lifts all communication scholars higher by being courageous enough to teach us as intellectuals that when we lay bare some of the intricacies of our lives, our students are better able to understand the complex canvases upon which our paradigms are built." — Eric King Watts, Wake Forest University Black Pioneers in Communication Research is the only book in the field of communication that—through personal interviews—systematically explores the lives, careers, and profound conceptual contributions of the men and women who have helped shape the contours of humanistic and social scientific inquiry within communication studies and beyond. The personal lives and careers of eleven leading scholars are profiled: Molefi Kete Asante, Donald E. Bogle, Hallie Quinn Brown, Melbourne S. Cummings, Jack L. Daniel, Oscar H. Gandy, Jr., Stuart Hall, Marsha Houston, Joni L. Jones/Iya Omi Osun Olomo, Dorthy L. Pennington, and Orlando L. Taylor. These pioneers have had an indelible impact on Black Studies, sociology, communication, political science, film studies, rhetoric, sociolinguistics, and cultural studies. Black Pioneers in Communication Research presents a penetrating look into the circumstances that shifted the paradigms of interdisciplinary thought. Some of the concepts covered in this book are afrocentricity, articulation theory, aphasia, oral performance and interpretation, womanism, Black English, Black oral traditions, the TrEE communication development model, chronemics, as well as the mammy, buck, mulatto, coon, and Uncle Tom images in film and television. Intended Audience: This is an excellent textbook for advanced undergraduate and graduate courses dealing with African American communication and/or communication research (such as intercultural communication, African American communication, African American studies, African American rhetoric, communication research, and communication theory).
Much of the scholarly exchange regarding the history of women in rhetoric has emphasized women's rhetorical practices. In Conversational Rhetoric: The Rise and Fall of a Women's Tradition, 1600-1900, Jane Donawerth traces the historical development of rhetorical theory by women for women, studying the moments when women produced theory about the arts of communication in alternative genres-humanist treatises and dialogues, defenses of women's preaching, conduct books, and elocution handbooks. She examines the relationship between communication and gender and between theory and pedagogy and argues that women constructed a theory of rhetoric based on conversation, not public speaking, as a model for all discourse. Donawerth traces the development of women's rhetorical theory through the voices of English and American women (and one much-translated French woman) over three centuries. She demonstrates how they cultivated theories of rhetoric centered on conversation that faded once women began writing composition textbooks for mixed-gender audiences in the latter part of the nineteenth century. She recovers and elucidates the importance of the theories in dialogues and defenses of women's education by Bathsua Makin, Mary Astell, and Madeleine de Scudéry; in conduct books by Hannah More, Lydia Sigourney, and Eliza Farrar; in defenses of women's preaching by Ellen Stewart, Lucretia Mott, Catherine Booth, and Frances Willard; and in elocution handbooks by Anna Morgan, Hallie Quinn Brown, Genevieve Stebbins, and Emily Bishop. In each genre, Donawerth explores facets of women's rhetorical theory, such as the recognition of the gendered nature of communication in conduct books, the incorporation of the language of women's rights in the defenses of women's preaching, and the adaptation of sentimental culture to the cultivation of women's bodies as tools of communication in elocution books. Rather than a linear history, Conversational Rhetoric follows the starts, stops, and starting over in women's rhetorical theory. It covers a broad range of women's rhetorical theory in the Anglo-American world and places them in their social, rhetorical, and gendered historical contexts. This study adds women's rhetorical theory to the rhetorical tradition, advances our understanding of women's theories and their use of rhetoric, and offers a paradigm for analyzing the differences between men's and women's rhetoric from 1600 to 1900. Copyright © 2012 by the Board of Trustees, Southern Illinois University. All rights reserved.
Thesis (Ph. D. in Religion)--Vanderbilt University, 1988. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 634-657).
The Official African Methodist Episcopal Church Website
"Our History," AME Church, The Official African Methodist Episcopal Church Website, accessed August 13, 2019. ch/our-history/.
An exhorter is considered a lay member of the AME Church. According to The Doctrine and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church 2012, they should teach the church school and manage and lead prayer meetings
  • Teisha Wilson
Teisha Wilson, "Jarena Lee (1783-185?)," BlackPast, last modified June 29, 2019, 10. An exhorter is considered a lay member of the AME Church. According to The Doctrine and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church 2012, they should teach the church school and manage and lead prayer meetings. They can speak at their church or other churches but are not considered a pastor.
Colored Convention Project. Exhibit on Henry McNeal Turner co
  • Jarena Lee
Jarena Lee, "Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jarena Lee, Giving an Account of Her Call to Preach the Gospel," Internet Archive, last modified July 6, 2009,, 11. 12. Wilson, "Jarena Lee." 13. Lee, "Religious Experience." 14. "Our Herstory," Connectional AME Women in Ministry, accessed August 13, 2019, 15. Colored Convention Project. Exhibit on Henry McNeal Turner co-curated by Denise Burgher and Andre E. Johnson, rvey-mcneal-turner/black-women-preachers/sarah-hughes-and-black-women-preac hers/ (para 2).
A Female Preacher Ordained
  • Henry Mcneal Angell
  • Turner
Angell, Henry McNeal Turner, 514. 20. A Female Preacher Ordained. New York Times. December 1, 1885.
Documenting the American South
  • Charles Spencer Smith
Charles Spencer Smith. A History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church: 1856-1922, Vol. 2 Documenting the American South, h/cssmith/smith.html (159).