(Re)writing resistance: African American narratives in speech, song and story from slavery to civil rights

Pidgeon, Cerianne (2015) (Re)writing resistance: African American narratives in speech, song and story from slavery to civil rights. BA dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    African American history from the nineteenth to the twentieth century is one that centralises around racial oppression and abuse. Attempts to resist oppression took shape in various forms; speeches, autobiography and song are the focus to this dissertation. Trends are seen in these forms from slavery to civil rights, as seen with similar use of discourse from both periods. Two forms of discourse in particular are reflected in African American works of resistance: the Exodus narrative and jeremiad. Exodus acted as a freedom narrative that was later adapted as a source of hope in redemption from a land of oppression to a Promised Land, with the benevolent hand of God. Religious story is pivotal in African American resistance and is shown in the speeches of major African American thinkers as well as seminal works, slave narratives, civil rights autobiography and lastly, slave spirituals and freedom songs. Redemptive principles in the Exodus related similarly to the jeremiad form as an additional protest rhetoric. The jeremiad like the Exodus, was adopted in African American resistance to condemn the nation for its racial sins and consequential failures in fulfilling its exceptionalist promises. The jeremiad and Exodus were interlinked in this context; to illustrate the nation's failures and promote the need for redemption. The black jeremiad as an adaptation of the American jeremiad, declared that African Americans -like the Israelites in the Exodus narrative, were the chosen ones who would redeem the nation of its sins and restore it to exceptionalism. This dissertation explores how speech, autobiography and song, used the Exodus and jeremiad as forms of resistance and promoted the need for racial reform. By doing so, African American works of protest linked across black history of racial oppression, thus forming a grand narrative of resistance from slavery to civil rights.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Languages and Area Studies
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2015 14:43
    Last Modified: 08 Jul 2015 14:43
    URI: http://eprints.port.ac.uk/id/eprint/17633

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