No Future in This Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Religion, United States on 2021-01-21 15:53Z by Steven

No Future in This Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner

University Press of Mississippi
November 2020
208 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9781496830708
Paperback ISBN: 9781496830692

Andre E. Johnson, Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies
University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee

A critical study of the career of the nineteenth-century bishop

No Future in This Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner is a history of the career of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner (1834–1915), specifically focusing on his work from 1896 to 1915. Drawing on the copious amount of material from Turner’s speeches, editorial, and open and private letters, Andre E. Johnson tells a story of how Turner provided rhetorical leadership during a period in which America defaulted on many of the rights and privileges gained for African Americans during Reconstruction. Unlike many of his contemporaries during this period, Turner did not opt to proclaim an optimistic view of race relations. Instead, Johnson argues that Turner adopted a prophetic persona of a pessimistic prophet who not only spoke truth to power but, in so doing, also challenged and pushed African Americans to believe in themselves.

At this time in his life, Turner had no confidence in American institutions or that the American people would live up to the promises outlined in their sacred documents. While he argued that emigration was the only way for African Americans to retain their “personhood” status, he also would come to believe that African Americans would never emigrate to Africa. He argued that many African Americans were so oppressed and so stripped of agency because they were surrounded by continued negative assessments of their personhood that belief in emigration was not possible. Turner’s position limited his rhetorical options, but by adopting a pessimistic prophetic voice that bore witness to the atrocities African Americans faced, Turner found space for his oratory, which reflected itself within the lament tradition of prophecy.

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Freedom’s Witness: The Civil War Correspondence of Henry McNeal Turner

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2013-12-27 01:23Z by Steven

Freedom’s Witness: The Civil War Correspondence of Henry McNeal Turner

University of West Virginia Press
March 2013
288 pages
Hardcover (Jacketed) ISBN: 978-1-935978-60-2
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-935978-61-9
ePub ISBN: 978-1-935978-62-6
PDF ISBN: 978-1-935978-95-4

Foreword by:

Aaron Sheehan-Dean, Fred C. Frey Professor of Southern Studies
Louisiana State University

Edited by:

Jean Lee Cole, Associate Professor of English
Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore

In a series of columns published in the African American newspaper The Christian Recorder, the young, charismatic preacher Henry McNeal Turner described his experience of the Civil War, first from the perspective of a civilian observer in Washington, D.C., and later, as one of the Union army’s first black chaplains.

In the halls of Congress, Turner witnessed the debates surrounding emancipation and black enlistment. As army chaplain, Turner dodged “grape” and cannon, comforted the sick and wounded, and settled disputes between white southerners and their former slaves. He was dismayed by the destruction left by Sherman’s army in the Carolinas, but buoyed by the bravery displayed by black soldiers in battle. After the war ended, he helped establish churches and schools for the freedmen, who previously had been prohibited from attending either.

Throughout his columns, Turner evinces his firm belief in the absolute equality of blacks with whites, and insists on civil rights for all black citizens. In vivid, detailed prose, laced with a combination of trenchant commentary and self-deprecating humor, Turner established himself as more than an observer: he became a distinctive and authoritative voice for the black community, and a leader in the African Methodist Episcopal church. After Reconstruction failed, Turner became disillusioned with the American dream and became a vocal advocate of black emigration to Africa, prefiguring black nationalists such as Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X. Here, however, we see Turner’s youthful exuberance and optimism, and his open-eyed wonder at the momentous changes taking place in American society.

Well-known in his day, Turner has been relegated to the fringes of African American history, in large part because neither his views nor the forms in which he expressed them were recognized by either the black or white elite. With an introduction by Jean Lee Cole and a foreword by Aaron Sheehan-Dean, Freedom’s Witness: The Civil War Correspondence of Henry McNeal Turner restores this important figure to the historical and literary record.

Table of Contents

  • Editor’s Note
  • Foreword, Aaron Sheehan-Dean
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: “I have seen war wonders”: The Civil War Correspondence of Henry McNeal Turner
  • Chapter 1. Emancipation and Enlistment (March 22, 1862–April 18, 1863)
  • Chapter 2. The Siege of Petersburg (June 25, 1864–December 17, 1864)
  • Chapter 3. Fort Fisher (Jan. 7, 1865–Feb. 18, 1865)
  • Chapter 4. Freeing Slaves, Meeting Sherman (Feb, 25, 1865–June 10, 1865)
  • Chapter 5. Roanoke Island (June 24, 1865–August 5, 1865)
  • About the Authors
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