I write to welcome you to Uplift Memphis, Uplift the Nation, the official blog of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis. I write not only as the Scholar in Residence of the Institute but also as the blog’s Senior Editor. I am excited about this opportunity. In addition to our blog posts that focus on racism and social justice issues, the blog will also serve as a place to share information about upcoming events, programming and highlight our Academic Research Fellows and other partners.
Besides being the Scholar in Residence at the Hooks Institute and Senior Editor of Uplift, I am an Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies in the Department of Communication and Film at the University of Memphis. I teach classes in African American Public Address, Rhetoric Race and Religion, Media Studies, Interracial Communication, Rhetoric, Popular Culture, and Hip Hop Studies. I am currently collecting and editing AME Church Bishop Henry McNeal Turner’s works under the title The Literary Archive of Henry McNeal Turner (Edwin Mellen Press). I have published six volumes, and the seventh one is set for publication in 2021.
In addition to collecting Bishop Turner’s writings, my most recent book publication is No Future in this Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner (University Press of Mississippi, 2020). The book is a rhetorical history 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, I attempt to tell the 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, I argue in the book 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.
I am a two-time national book award winner (The Forgotten Prophet, 2012) and The Struggle Over Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter (with Amanda Nell Edgar), 2018) and have won several top paper awards at national, regional, and state conferences. The Religious Communication Association named me their Scholar of the Year for 2020.
Some of my future research projects include writing a second book that examines the Black Lives Matter Movement with my co-author, Amanda Nell Edgar, a collection of sermons from African American preachers during the pandemic with co-editors Kimberly P. Johnson and Wallis Baxter III, editing a collection of essays for a special issue that focus of the rhetoric of hip hop with Damariye Smith and writing a religious/spiritual biography of Bishop Turner.
For more information about my scholarship, see my CV here. I invite you to follow me on Twitter at @aejohnsonphd, Facebook, and of course, right here at Uplift. I also invite you to follow the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We also ask you to subscribe to our YouTube page as well.
For information in submitting a post for Uplift, please click here.