The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change hosted the Inaugural Hooks Social Justice Series event where Hooks Scholar in Residence Andre E. Johnson gave a lecture on his book, No Future in This Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner. The event was moderated by UofM Communication and Film graduate student Tom Fuerst and took place February 24 at 1pm CST on the Hooks Institute’s Facebook Page and was free and open to the public.
About the book:
No Future in This Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner (University Press of Mississippi, 2020) draws on the copious amount of material from Bishop Henry McNeal Turner’s speeches, editorial, and open and private letters 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, 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 would also believe that African Americans would never emigrate to Africa. He argued that many African Americans were so oppressed and so stripped of agency because continued negative assessments of their personhood surrounded them 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.