Below is a list of publications from 2020-2021. To see Dr. Johnson's complete CV, please click here


No Future in This Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner. University Press of Mississippi, 2020

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.

To order your copy, click here.

(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.


Taking the Inward Journey: Prophetic Rhetoric’s Listening Function. Listening: A Journal of Communication Ethics, Religion, and Culture. Vol 55, No. 3, (Fall, 2020): 151-159

What I would like to do in this essay is to turn my attention to what I call prophetic rhetoric’s listening function. In other words, how does the prophet know what the prophet declares? How does the prophet know that God is calling the prophet to do the work of God? How does the prophet know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it? How does the prophet know when a rebirthing moment is taking place? How does the prophet get this revelation and thereby become empowered to share this “new” vision of the deity with society? I argue that, before the prophet speaks or offers a prophetic witness, the prophet must do work. All prophets must engage in what Elizabeth O’Connor calls the “inward journey.” For her, the inward journey is composed of three elements: the engagement with self, the engagement with God, and the engagement with the other. However, the inward journey can only start when we enter a space of deep silence, which leads to what I call prophetic listening. It is with this type of listening that the prophet begins to create ethos that ultimately leads to logos.

Read the essay here

MLK and the Meeting that Never Was: Race, Racism and the Negation of the Beloved Community. Journal of Communication and Religion, Vol. 43 Issue 3, (Autumn, 2020): 9-17

In a speech given to students at Grosse Pointe High School on March 14, 1968, just three weeks before his death, Martin Luther King addressed the uprisings that consumed America during this time. During the same time that King delivered this speech, plans were underway for a retreat that would have brought King together with the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. While we will never know what both men would have talked about or what they would have done, I do believe at least in so far as King is concerned that he would have undoubtedly spoken about his concept of the Beloved Community.

Read the essay here.


“Further Silence Upon Our Part Would be an Outrage”: Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the Colored Convention Movement” in, The Colored Conventions Movement: Black Organizing in the Nineteenth Century Gabrielle Foreman, Jim Casey, and Sarah Lynn Patterson (eds). Duke University Press, 2021

In this chapter, I examine Turner’s role in the colored conventions movement. As I demonstrate, Turner had always been part of and played significant roles in national, state, and local conventions. The 1893 national colored convention held in Cincinnati from November 28 to December 2 is one of the very last, if not the last, to claim that title; it is the focus of the essay. I examine Turner’s role as the president of the convention, analyze his keynote address, and posit why Turner believed that a national colored convention would be the best medium to again advocate for emigration.

Confrontational and Intersectional Rhetoric: Black Lives Matter and the Shutdown of the Hernando De Soto (I-40) Bridge,” in The Routledge Handbook of the Rhetoric of Social Movements. Nathan Crick ed. Routledge, 2021

This chapter applies Robert S. Cathcart’s rhetorical form of confrontation and Darrel EnckWanzer’s concept of intersectional rhetoric to Black Lives Matter as a social movement. I argue that Black Lives Matter as a social movement is best understood as a confrontational and intersectional movement that squarely fits within the Black Liberationist tradition. This confrontational/intersectional rhetoric, I argue follows the mandate of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who, in the last year of his life, called for this type of action. 

In the second part of the chapter, I examine the action on the bridge. I do this in two different ways. First, by way of reviewing media accounts of the direct social action, I attempt to tell a narrative of what happened that evening. Second, drawing from the Facebook Live video I took, through an autoethnographic framework, I examine the march that occurred after protesters left the bridge. Not covered by the media as much as the bridge shut down, I argue that the march is important to share because, it symbolized for most protesters, a reclamation of agency. In short, many people felt as if “they did something that night.” They felt empowered. Many celebrated the fact that the protest was “peaceful” in that police did not arrest anyone, but more importantly, police did not kill anyone that night either. I close the chapter by sharing some results of the bridge protest and reflections on Black Lives Matter as a social movement. 

Read the chapter here

(with Natonya Litsach) "Women, Step Forward!" Doing Rhetorical Historiography by Exploring Womanist Leadership in the AME Church in Womanist Ethical Rhetoric: A Call for Liberation and Social Justice in Turbulent Times. Annette Madlock Gatison and Cerise Glenn-Manigault (eds). Lexington Books, 2020

In a denomination with two female bishops, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church seems to be progressive in the trajectory of women's roles in the Church. However, there is still more work to do as women's voices are continuously bombarded, overlooked, or even pushed out of the conversation. With this in mind, how can women work to advance their position in the denomination? While some men, such as Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, fought for the inclusion of women in every aspect of the leadership of the AME Church, the seeds of inclusion were planted, watered, and harvested by the women of the denomination. This chapter will focus on historical examples of women pushing forth as rhetors in the AME Church—Jarena Lee, Sarah (Sallie) Ann Copeland Hughes, Hallie Quinn Brown, and Jamye Coleman Williams.

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


“Listening to African American Call Narratives.” Listening Journal of Communication Ethics, Religion and Culture. (Fall, 2020).

With this special issue of Listening, we wanted to examine African American call narratives. While literature in the field of communication on call narratives is scant, research becomes even more negligible when focused on African Americans. This is surprising because if one is to study the African American rhetorical tradition in any serious way, one will come across many accounts of call narratives. Enslavement narratives, nineteenth-century African American women preacher narratives, African American biographical treatments, and a host of other writings all have elements of call in them. While scholars have acknowledged these call narratives, they have not studied them rhetorically. Therefore, this issue asks and explores: What are the rhetorical effects of call narratives? What do they propose to do and how do they in and of themselves function as pieces of rhetoric?

Read the special issue here.