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Mellon Forum // Womanist Work: Black Women Preachers and the Making of Sermonic Space in Literature and Music

Melanie R. Hill, Rutgers; Wallace Best, Princeton

September 26, 2023 · 12:00 pm1:15 pm · Betts Auditorium and Zoom

Princeton Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism & the Humanities

In Black Performance Theory, Dr. D. Soyini Madison’s foreword explicates the imperatives and aesthetics of Black expressive culture coupled with the ways in which Blackness is performatively examined in time and space. Womanist Work centers the efficacy of the sermon within African American literature, music, and social-spiritual moments with respect to Black women preachers as cultural figures. In addition to investigating how Black women preachers use their sermons as modes of resistance, Womanist Work foregrounds the Black woman preacher’s emphasis on musicality, expressivity, thematic relevance, and improvisatory phrasing, clarifying the ways that the delivery of the sermon must be understood in terms of both content and context. Womanist Work also acknowledges the prophetic scenarios in African American literature, music, and theology that speak to creating, producing, and discovering sermonic space regarding Black women preachers within the twenty-first century freedom movement.

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