Black Identity: Rhetoric, Ideology, and Nineteenth-Century Black Nationalism

Black Identity: Rhetoric, Ideology, and Nineteenth-Century Black Nationalism

Black Identity: Rhetoric, Ideology, and Nineteenth-Century Black Nationalism

Black Identity: Rhetoric, Ideology, and Nineteenth-Century Black Nationalism

Excerpt

This book sprung from a desire to understand the ways in which the movement led by Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Garveyism, functioned to fulfill its gargantuan task of effecting a movement of “a people, ” not just leaders or select groups but the entire African diaspora. That broad desire became a more manageable first step: understanding the early rhetorical formation and functioning of the ideology of black nationalism in the United States. In this regard, then, the book is a beginning and not an end. Much more rhetorical analysis of the various facets of black nationalism throughout the African diaspora has yet to be completed. I hope this book serves as an invitation to more voices to join the talk.

Anglo-America's rhetorical construction of blacks as “slaves” or “free blacks” was part of an effort to divide and alienate African Americans while naturalizing the white supremacist structure of antebellum America. In response, black advocates sought to bring about their own liberation by rhetorically constructing an ideology with a new collective identity for themselves that addressed black ideological alienation even as it challenged the prevailing Anglo-American ideology. Central to that rhetoric was an ideology of black nationalism.

For abolitionists such as Henry Highland Garnet, the voluntary submission of black people to their abject condition in slavery was “SINFUL IN THE EXTREME” (Garnet 3: 407). This participation in and lack of resistance to slavery were acts that alienated them from their ancestors, their heroes, the fruits of their labor, and most significant, themselves. Slaveholders, as abolitionists saw them, were diabolical and had neither the intention nor the ability to be active subjects for black liberation. In sum, black abolitionists sought to place the responsibility for the abolition of slavery in the hands of blacks as the only means of eliminating their alienation. I establish this thesis through a comparison of representative examples of American black abolitionist discourse.

Rhetoric, race, and alienation are central to this study; thus, the first chapter engages various theories about these concepts and the problems they spawn. For example, rhetorical critics in the United States have only relatively recently engaged in significant and sustained analyses of race as a problematic of rhetoric that . . .

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