Below is a list of publications from 2019-2020. To see Dr. Johnson's complete CV, please click here


No Future in This Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner

A critical study of the career of the nineteenth-century bishop


No Future in This Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner is a history of the career 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, Andre E. Johnson tells a 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 also would come to believe that African Americans would never emigrate to Africa. He argued that many African Americans were so oppressed and so stripped of agency because they were surrounded by continued negative assessments of their personhood 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.

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(with Amanda Nell Edgar) The Struggle over Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. Lexington Books, (Paperback) 2020

*Winner of the National Communication Association (NCA) 2019 African American Communication and Culture Division Outstanding Book Award.

In The Struggle over Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter, Amanda Nell Edgar and Andre E. Johnson examine the surprisingly complex relationship between Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter as it unfolds on social media and in offline interpersonal relationships. Exploring cultural influences like family history, fear, religion, postracialism, and workplace pressure, Edgar and Johnson trace the meanings of these movements from the perspectives of ordinary participants. The Struggle over Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter highlights the motivations for investing in social movements and countermovements to show how history, both remembered and misremembered, bubbles beneath the surface of online social justice campaigns. Through participation in these contemporary movements, online social media users enact continuations of American history through a lens of their own past experiences. This book ties together online and offline, national and local, and personal and political to understand one of the defining social justice struggles of our time.

Purchase the book here.


(with Katherine Whitfield) Tyler Perry and the Rhetoric of Madea: Contrasting Performances of Perry’s Leading Lady as She Appears on Stage and Screen. Religions. Vol 10.7, 2019

In this essay, we will explore the variances in Madea’s character and presence on stage and on screen in both productions of Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail: The Play and Madea Goes to Jail. Specifically, we examine the multiple and varying ways in which the character of Madea performs for different audiences by examining how the roles of violence, religion, and wisdom operate on stage and screen. Exploring the subtle—and at times, not-so-subtle—ways in which Madea’s performances differ from stage to screen, we suggest that Madea also performs as a text that Perry then uses to impart different messages to audiences of both stage and screen. 

Read the essay here

(with Earle J. Fisher). “But, I Forgive You”: Mother Emanuel, Black Pain and the Rhetoric of Forgiveness. Journal of Communication and Religion. Vol. 42 No. 1. 2019

On June 17, 2015, white supremacist Dylann Roof walked into Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in Charleston, South Carolina with a .45 caliber Glock handgun while members conducted their Wednesday night bible study. After sitting through the mid-week bible study, near the close of the meeting and after praying with them, Roof shot and killed nine people who became known as the Emmanuel Nine. Black pain again was on full display in the media, and so were calls for forgiveness.

In this essay, we examine the rhetoric of forgiveness and how forgiveness, as a trope, performs in public when expressed through black pain. Further, we maintain that the wider public not only expects a rhetoric of forgiveness when racial ghosts of the past (and present) manifest in ways that cause black pain but also those grief-stricken black families must offer forgiveness in non-threatening and expeditiously ways that eases public consciences. This leads us to examine the rhetoric of (un)forgiveness and how it functions through black pain as well. 

Read the essay here


"I Have Had to Pass through Blood and Fire” Henry McNeal Turner and the I Rhetorical Legacy of Reconstruction in Remembering the Memphis Massacre: An American Story edited by Beverly Greene Bond and Susan Eva O'Donavan. University of Georgia Press, 2020, 178-189

When Henry McNeal Turner returned to the South in 1866, he had already established a robust list of accomplishments. It would be, however, during Reconstruction that Turner’s public persona elevated and he established himself within not only the Black community but the white community as well. While he preached and built the AME church in Georgia, Turner served on Georgia’s Constitutional Convention (1867), elected to the House of Representatives (1868), became a customs Inspector and Postmaster General in Macon (1869) won reelection to the State House (1870), served as pastor of St. Philip AME Church in Savannah (1872-1876), and became Publications Manager for the AME church (1876-1880). He did this while finding time to write regularly, not only for the Christian Recorder but also for other newspapers and journals. This paper examines Turner’s rhetorical legacy established during this period.

Read the chapter here

(with Dianna Watkins-Dickerson) Fighting to be Heard: Shirley Chisholm and the Makings of a Womanist Rhetorical Framework in Gender, Race, and Social Identity in American Politics edited by Lori L. Montalbano. Lexington Books. 2019, 155-168.

In this chapter, we examine the presidential candidacy of Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm. We argue Shirley Chisholm’s political campaign discourse is one example in a small sample of Black female public [and private] figures who make up what we call a womanist rhetorical genre. We focus our analysis on Chisholm’s words through her campaign announcement speech and her text Unbought and Unbossed. We also examine other texts, journals, and reports to augment our claims and fully explore the rhetorical legacy of political communication of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm.

Read the chapter here

Fighting the Devil with Fire: The Political Career of Henry McNeal Turner inThe Handbook of Research on Black Males: Quantitative, Qualitative, and Multidisciplinary. Theodore S. Ransaw, C. P. Gause, and Richard Majors (eds). Michigan State Press. 2019 27-44

In this chapter, however, I focus on the rocky political career of Turner primarily by examining two speeches that helped shape his political persona. In the first of these, the Emancipation Day speech, Turner demonstrates his willingness to reconcile after the war. When Turner returned to the South after a Union victory and serving as the first African American chaplain in the armed forces, Turner was optimistic about the future of the country. It was with this optimistic tone that Turner began his work in the South.

However, he did not stay optimistic for long. In the second speech, after white members of the house of representatives made a motion to remove all the black elected officials, Turner’s conciliatory tone shifted to one of disgust and indignation. In an impassioned speech, “On the Eligibility of Colored Members to the Seats in the Georgia Legislature,” delivered from the floor of the Georgia statehouse, Turner said he needed to “fight the devil with fire” and offered a prophetic rebuke of his opponents as he defended the right of blacks to serve in the legislature. I argue that this speech began Turner’s shift that would grow more pessimistic as America continued to default on its promise to African Americans.

Read the chapter here


Embodied Solidarity, Incarnation, and the Spirituality of the BLM Movement. Proceedings: Sixth Biennial Conference on Religion and American Culture. Delivered: June 8, 2019.

Despite being born as an overt secular movement, I argue that BLM is not void of spirituality or faith commitments. Even though in their protest activism, they will practice an embodied solidarity and tenants of an incarnational ministry, this spirituality is in many ways not orthodox to many mainstream religious traditions—especially Christianity. However, what one cannot dispute is that through their bodied witness, a spirituality that moves from moral suasion to bearing witness, activists are discovering new and transformative ways to handle issues, problems, and concerns that Black people face daily. As a liberative and prophetic movement, BLM activists have drawn of the Black liberationists movements of the past and discerned the contextual realities confronting them today. In so doing, they have discovered a spirituality that works for and speaks to them. 

Read the essay here.


Black Theology and Black Power
by James H. Cone
Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, February 2019. 208 pages. $25.00. Paperback. ISBN  9781626983083.

Reviewed in Reading Religion, 2019

In Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody: The Making of a Black Theologian (Orbis Books, 2018), James Cone wrote that the publication of his seminal text, Black Theology, and Black Power (Orbis Books, 1969) “save[d] my life as a theologian, allowing me to fulfill the true purpose of my calling.” The true purpose of his calling as a theologian became clearer as he began to deconstruct and dismantle the “white theologies” that blinded him to the “rich treasure in the Black religious tradition.” For Cone, writing Black Theology and Black Power was a recovery or, maybe I should say, a discovery project that not only centered Black lives and blackness but in so doing, opened a whole new avenue of theological thinking and writing.

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