Richard W. Leeman and Bernard Duffy, eds.
The Will of a People
A Critical Anthology of Great African American Speeches
Southern Illinois University Press 2012
New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books Network January 30, 2013 Vershawn Young
The Will of a People: A Critical Anthology of Great African American Speeches (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012) is a compendium of 22 orations delivered by African Americans over a span of over 265 years. Co-edited by frequent collaborators Richard Leeman and Bernard Duffy, both professors of communication studies, both interested in the American tradition of public address, have spotlighted the African American oral tradition in public testimonies, speeches, declarations, and jeremiads, among other possible categories of purpose in black oratory. Limited by such constraints as space and copy right law, the speeches included are those considered great, either because the speech itself is considered “famous,” like Sojourner Truth’s “A’n’t I a Woman?,” or because it is considered “the finest speech delivered by a an influential orator,” like Henry Turner’s “I Claim the Rights as a Man.” Whatever the reason for their inclusion, it’s no doubt the speeches collected are inspirational, informative, and worth studying as part of American cultural history, an oratorical history that continues to this very moment. In fact, capturing the contemporary milieu, the book also contains the first inaugural address by Barack Obama, the first U.S. president of color. Thus covering an impressive range, The Will of a People, will give readers much to think about, debate, and contemplate.