Smith, “Socio-Historical Perspectives of Black Oratory”

Smith, Arthur L. (Molefi Kete Assante), “Socio-Historical Perspectives of Black Oratory.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 56.3 (Oct. 1970): 264-269. (6 pages)

Smith looks toward Black Oratory, specifically in the contexts of sermons and religious events. He focuses on Nommo, or the spoken word. “For the word could not be considered static; it was then and is now dynamic and generative. Actually this concept embodies the idea of incantation as transformation; vocal expression reigns supreme” (264). We can make a connection here to Gates’ Signyfin’. As Smithw rites, the Afro-American focused on creating, generating, producing alternate communication patterns in opposition to those of white American supremacy. Historically, in fact, because of the antiliteracy laws during slavery, “vocal communication became for a much greater proportion of blacks than whites the fundamental medium of communication” (264). Slavery and the history of slavery became necessary knowledge for any black orator; such a particularly terrible past prompted an obsession with the future and possibility (268).


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