Dissertation Defense Announcement
The College of Communication and Fine Arts announces the Final Dissertation Defense of
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
November 5, 2018 at 12:00 PM in Art and Communication Building, Room 309
Advisor: Antonio de Velasco
A Close Reading of Albert Cleage Jr's The Black Messiah: A Study in Rhetorical Hermeneutics, Black Prophetic Rhetoric and Radical Black Politics
ABSTRACT: The physical and rhetorical presentations in Albert Cleage Jr's 1968 publication, The Black Messiah, had an enormous impact on the theological and rhetorical landscape of the late 1960's and continues to echo into the early part of the 21st century. This book of 20 sermons preached at the height of the black power movement in Detroit was disruptive to a white supremacist religious consciousness that plagued the mainstream religious arena and general American public. The Black Messiah has contributed substantially to the change in public discourse about Jesus, Christianity, Black Power, and what it meant to be Christian then (and now). As a rhetorical artifact, the book stands at the intersection of rhetoric, race, and religion. This dissertation centers the method of "close readings" to analyze The Black Messiah through the lenses of Contemporary Rhetorical Theory, African American Religious and Prophetic Rhetoric, and Black Power Studies. I contextualize the presentation of the content of the book by calling for communication studies to offer a more intentional engagement with religious rhetoric and challenging the conventions of traditional rhetorical theory and systematic theology. I conclude with deep dives into three of Cleage's most provocative sermons, "An Epistle to Stokely," "Brother Malcolm," and "Dr. King and Black Power."