Political Paradoxes and the Black Jeremiad: Frederick Douglass's Immanent Theory of Rhetorical Protest

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Abstract

In this article, the author argues that throughout his political career, Frederick Douglass positioned himself between two positions that created a seeming paradox—a sharp critique of American racism and an affirmation of American exceptionalism and the country's divine destiny to lead the world. Douglass managed this balance through his oratory and, especially, through the rhetorical strategies of association and dissociation, identification and division. The author argues further that Douglass used these strategies within a Black jeremiadic rhetoric that crafted a messianic vision for the nation. Although this vision created an essential role for African Americans within the country's mythology and purpose, it also, again paradoxically, subsumed the unique interests of the Black community within a nationalist future that did not transcend Whiteness. Thus, although Douglass is remembered as an uncompromising champion for Black rights, his specific use of association and dissociation make him a difficult model on which to build contemporary protest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHoward Journal of Communications
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management

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