Black sermonic tradition

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The Black sermonic tradition, or Black preaching tradition, is an approach to sermon delivery among primarily African Americans. The tradition finds its roots in the painful experiences of blacks during slavery in the United States, as well as experiences during the Jim Crow era and subsequent discrimination.

Scholars and practitioners have widely recognized four elements of the tradition, which widely continue to the modern day. Firstly, the preaching emphasizes the preacher's freedom to be his or her authentic black self and not have to front a false persona to appease certain expectations of members of the dominant society. Secondly, the preaching is characterized by a variety of rhetorical embellishments including often jarring hyperbole, corresponding body language, and musicality in vocalizations. Thirdly, it is often marked by challenges to dominant societal structures and emphasizes how individuals may be transformed through connection with God. Finally, there is a recognition of historical continuity with ancestors.

Some African American literature follows the pattern of the sermonic tradition.


  • Hubbard, Don (1996). The Sermon and the African American Literary Imagination, University of Missouri Press, ISBN 0-8262-1087-2
  • LaRue, Cleophus J. (1999). The Heart Of Black Preaching, John Knox Press, ISBN 0-6642-5847-6
  • Lyndrey A. Niles, "Rhetorical Characteristics of Traditional Black Preaching", Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 15, No. 1, Sep., 1984, pp. 41-52.
  • Mitchell, Henry H. (1990). Black Preaching: The Recovery of a Powerful Art, Abingdon Press, ISBN 0687036143
  • Mitchell, Henry H. (2004). Black Church Beginnings: The Long-Hidden Realities of the First Years, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub., ISBN 0802827853
  • Moyd, Olin P. (1995). The Sacred Art: Preaching & Theology in the African American Tradition, Judson Press, ISBN 0817012206
  • Walter Pitts, "West African Poetics in the Black Preaching Style", American Speech, Vol. 64, No. 2 (Summer, 1989), pp. 137-149.