Special Roundtable: Understanding the Intersection of Rhetoric Race and Religion

African American Public Address Pre-Conference 
at the 
National Communication Association Conference in Baltimore, Maryland

Day: Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Place: Sheraton Inner Harbor
Room: TBD

**The conference is free, but you must register. If you are interested in attending the conference, when you register for NCA, please sign up for the conference as well. If you are not attending NCA but would like to attend the pre-conference, sign up here.

***To see the rest of the panels, click here

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Special Roundtable: 4:00pm-5:15pm 

Title: In the Beginning Was the Word: Understanding the Intersection of Rhetoric Race and Religion


In this roundtable, participants engaged in research that examines the intersection of rhetoric race and religion broadly. In short, we want to understand how one uses rhetoric as a method or how rhetorical approaches to religion can contribute to a deeper and more meaningful understanding of both religion and race. We use rhetoric here as language and other forms of symbolic activity that motivate and/or guide people in matters of belief. We also see rhetoric as what communicators invite their audiences to do. Therefore, this roundtable seeks to address rhetoric race and religion from both a historical or contemporary perspective and examine those explicit and implicit warrants that function in religious discourse that better help us to theorize ways in which religion(s) and race operate. 

Chair: Andre E. Johnson, University of Memphis 


Twitter: @aejohnsonphd

Instagram: aejohnsonphd

Andre E. Johnson, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies in the Department of Communication and Film at the University of Memphis. He teaches classes in African American Public Address, Rhetoric Race and Religion, Media Studies, Interracial Communication, Rhetoric, and Popular Culture, and Hip Hop Studies. Additionally, along with his academic titles, he currently serves as Senior Pastor of Gifts of Life Ministries an inner-city church built upon the servant leadership philosophy in Memphis, Tennessee.

In addition to collecting the writings of Bishop Turner, Dr. Johnson is the co-author (with Amanda Nell Edgar) of The Struggle Over Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. He is also the author of The Forgotten Prophet: Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American Prophetic Tradition (2012) that won the National Communication Association (NCA) 2013 African American Communication and Culture Division Outstanding Book Award. He is the editor of Urban God Talk: Constructing a Hip Hop Spirituality (2013) and he is also finishing No Future in this Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner which the University Press of Mississippi plans to release in 2020. He is also the curator and director of the Henry McNeal Turner Project (#HMTProject); a digital archive dedicated to the writings and study of Bishop Turner.

Chair: Dianna Watkins-Dickerson, University of Memphis


Twitter: @diannanik86

Dianna's scholarship begins at the intersections of rhetoric, race, religion, and gender. While she is trained as a rhetorician, the heart of her work deals with Black Christian women reclaiming their bodies and voices, not as acceptable sacrifices, but as beautifully, wonderfully made carriers of hope, power, vision, and tenacity living in the abundant life promised to them. Dianna is also the co-author (with Andre E. Johnson) of the recently published book chapter "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.


Kimberly P. Johnson, Tennessee State University


Twitter: @KimberlyPJohns2

Dr. Kimberly P. Johnson is an Associate Professor in the Communication Studies concentration area at Tennessee State University. She brings to the Department of Communication, her areas of specialization; Political, Religious, and African American Rhetoric, Rhetorical Criticism, Cultural Criticism and Womanism. Dr. Johnson has presented her research at professional communication associations such as the National Communication Association, Rhetoric Society of America, Southern States Communication Association, and the Tennessee Communication Association. She is the author of The Womanist Preacher: Proclaiming Womanist Rhetoric from the Pulpit (Lexington Books, 2017) and currently working on a womanist reader.

Christopher House, Ithaca College

Twitter: @drchrishouse

Instagram: @drchrishouse

Dr. Christopher A. House (Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh) is an associate professor of Communication Studies and affiliate faculty in Culture and Communication and Martin Luther King Scholar program. His research interests are in black Pentecostal rhetoric & social action, rhetorical theology, critical media & digital studies, difference/diversity & inclusion, Black church studies, African American rhetoric, rhetorical theory/criticism.

As a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, Syracuse University Fellow, and K. Leroy Irvis Fellow, he has received several national awards and honors. His scholarship has been published in Journal of Communication and Religion (2018), Southern Journal of Communication (2018), Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric (2017), International Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods (2016), Journal of Race & Public Policy (2014), International Journal of Communication (2013) and Memphis Theological Seminary Journal (2012). His current manuscript, Touch Your Neighbor and Say, “Black Lives Matter!”: Rhetoric, Race & Religion in the Age of #BLACKLIVESMATTER is expected to be published late in 2020.

Beyond the classroom, Dr. House is also a man of faith and currently serves as the pastor of Christian Community Church Ithaca and he is an accomplished motivational & inspirational speaker, and lecturer for several religious, non-profit and community organizations in the United States, the Caribbean, Canada, and in several African countries. In addition to his academic, professional, and ecclesiastical responsibilities, he enjoys spending time with family and friends.

R. Janae Pitts-Murdock, Christian Theological Seminary


Twitter: @rjanaepitts

Rev. R. Janae Pitts-Murdock currently serves as the Interim Pastor of Light of the World Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. Rev. Janae is a graduate of the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies, Carnegie Mellon University with a Master of Science degree in Public Policy & Management, United Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree, and the University of Memphis with a Master of Business Administration. She is also a doctoral student in the African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric program at Christian Theological Seminary. Rev. Janae's research interests lie at the intersection of rhetoric, race, and religion; particularly the pulpit oratory of Rev. C.L. Franklin. 

Earle Fisher, Memphis Theological Seminary


Twitter: @Pastor_Earle

Instagram: pastor_earle

Rev. Dr. Earle J. Fisher is a native of Benton Harbor, Michigan. This preacher, professor, writer, and social advocate graduated from Benton Harbor High School in 1996, earned an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts in 1999 from Lake Michigan College, a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Computer Science in 2003 from LeMoyne-Owen College and a Masters of Divinity Degree in 2008 from Memphis Theological Seminary. Rev. Fisher is a dually ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Missionary Baptist Church denominations.

Dr. Fisher received his Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Memphis in 2018. Professor Fisher serves as an Adjunct Instructor of Religion and Humanities at several local colleges and universities. Pastor Earle is also the Senior Pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Memphis, TN, and founder of #UPTheVote901 – a nonpartisan initiative that gives more political power to more people and pushes to increase voter turnout in Memphis and Shelby County. Most of Dr. Fisher’s research focuses on the intersections of rhetoric, race, and religion with an emphasis on prophetic rhetoric and the personality Albert Cleage, Jr.

Michelle E. Shaw, Northwestern University

Twitter: @michelleeshaw

Instagram: shellyeshaw

Michelle E. Shaw is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Rhetoric and Public Culture. She earned her BA in Mass Media Arts from Clark Atlanta University, and while working as a full-time journalist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she earned a Master of Divinity degree from the Interdenominational Theological Center. She later earned a Master of Theology degree from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Before returning to the classroom to pursue her graduate education, she wrote for several newspapers in the South and Southeast over the course of 15 years. She is currently interested in how rhetoric factors into the preaching moment, specifically when the orator is a woman, within predominately Black churches.

Monique Moultrie, Georgia State University


Dr. Monique Moultrie is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Georgia State University. She is also currently a Visiting Associate Professor of Women’s Studies and African American Religions at Harvard University. 

Dr. Moultrie's scholarly pursuits include projects in sexual ethics, African American religions, and gender and sexuality studies. Her research has been supported by a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, a Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning Grant, a GSU Dean’s Early Career Award, and an American Academy of Religion Individual Research Grant. Duke University Press published her first book, Passionate and Pious: Religious Media and Black Women’s Sexuality in 2017. The Religious Communication Association awarded it their Book of the Year award in 2018. Her forthcoming research is a book-length study of black lesbian religious leadership and faith activism. 

Her recent publications include a co-edited volume A Guide for Women in Religion: Making Your Way from A to Z, 2nd edition (Palgrave Macmillan 2014); an article, “Putting a Ring on It: Black Women, Black Churches and Coerced Monogamy” in the Black Theology (2018) journal; a book chapter “Black Female Sexual Agency and Racialized Holy Sex in Black Christian Reality TV Shows” edited by Mara Einstein, Katherine Madden, and Diane Winston (Routledge 2018); an article “#BlackBabiesMatter: Analyzing Black Religious Media in Conservative and Progressive Evangelical Communities” in the Religions (2017) journal; a book chapter “Critical Race Theory,” in Religion: Embodied Religion edited by Kent Brintnall (Palgrave Macmillan 2016): 341-358; and an article “After the Thrill is Gone: Married to the Holy Spirit but Still Sleeping Alone,” in Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 33 (2011): 237-253.

Outside of the university, Dr. Moultrie was a consultant for the National Institutes of Health and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender-Religious Archives Network. She is a Content Development working group member for Columbia University’s Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics, and Social Justice and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice’s Scholars Group, a group of religious scholars collaborating at the intersection of religion and reproductive justice. Within the larger American Academy of Religion guild, Dr. Moultrie is the Status of Women in the Profession Chair and a former co-chair of the Religion and Sexuality unit.

Kyle Brooks, Methodist Theological School in Ohio

Dr. Kyle Brooks is a Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Fellow currently serving as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Black Church and African Diaspora Studies at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. 

Algernon Williams, Independent Scholar


C. L. Dangerfield, University of Memphis

C.L. Dangerfield is an award-winning educator with nearly 20 years of experience in the classroom. Her research aligns at the intersection of race, identity, and rhetoric–with an occasional homage to hip-hop culture. Expanding her scholarship to include more prominent considerations of gender, faith, and digital media, she seeks to interrogate spaces of oppression to offer “voice,” visibility, and a renewed sense of authority to those that might otherwise be dismissed.

Dangerfield has earned degrees in Speech Communication from Clark Atlanta University and Penn State, as well as a graduate certificate in Writing and Digital Communication from Agnes Scott College. She is now in the Ph.D. program in Communication Studies at the University of Memphis.