by Andre E. Johnson, Ph.D.

I discovered Henry McNeal Turner by accident. While starting a seminar class in rhetorical criticism and trying to hone in on a dissertation topic, I ran across a speech delivered by Turner. He delivered the speech on the floor of the Georgia House of Representatives as the House debated whether African Americans could hold office in the state of Georgia. I remember reading the speech and wondering if anyone had studied Turner’s rhetoric.

However, there was a problem. Since Turner lived during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was my belief that texts from Turner would be difficult to find. Turner, like many of his contemporaries during this time, spoke extemporaneously—not from notes or prepared texts. Moreover, unlike some speakers during this time, Turner did not travel with a stenographer—or someone who could have written what Turner said for later publication. Going into my project, I only hoped there were enough texts to do a solid dissertation.

Imagine my surprise when I found that Turner was one of the most prolific writers and speakers during his time and that much of his writings were not lost to history. Turner published copious amounts of material for newspapers, magazines, and journals of his day. Turner lectured throughout the country and wrote extensively on his travels to Africa. In short, many would consider Turner a public intellectual in today’s definition of the term.


Sadly, many today have not heard of Turner. Indeed, it is as if Turner has been lost to history. I found myself always explaining to people who Turner was and why I thought, at least, he was so important. This is why this site exists. It is our intent to recover a lost voice within American and African American history. Henry McNeal Turner deserves recognition and it is our fervent hope that this site begins to serve that purpose.


Project Team Members

Project Director:

Andre E. Johnson, Ph.D. is currently an Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Memphis. He teaches in the areas of Rhetoric and Religion, Rhetorical History, and African American Public Address. He also is currently Senior Pastor of Gifts of Life Ministries an inner-city church built upon the servant leadership philosophy. Dr. Johnson has a Masters of Divinity degree and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Communication. He is currently editing The Literary Archive of Henry McNeal Turner and has published the first five volumes under the title: "The Literary Archive of Henry McNeal Turner." Dr. Johnson is also the author of The Forgotten Prophet: Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American Prophetic Tradition, (2012) that won the 2013 African American Communication and Culture Division Outstanding Book Award. He is the editor of Urban God Talk: Constructing a Hip Hip Spirituality (2013). He also serves as Founder and Managing Editor of the popular Rhetoric Race and Religion Blog and as general editor of the Rhetoric Race and Religion book series with Lexington Books. His latest book, co-authored with Amanda Nell Edgar is titled, "The Struggle Over Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter."

For more about Dr. Johnson click here.

Researchers/Collaborators

Kimberley Travers

StaLynn Davis

Regina Clarke

Web Designer: Amanda Nell Edgar, Ph.D.


Praise for the #HMTProject:

"I am a lover of history; especially Black history. This project is so important because HMT is a forgotten trailblazer of equal, civil, and Black rights. His work is not only important historically, but also contemporarily. He spoke of matters that needed attention 100 years ago, as well as today!! Finding and exploring his work is important for academia and common life alike."-Anthony Stone, Graduate Student: Sociology, University of Cincinnati

"As a descendant of one of Bishop Turner's students in ministry, I enjoy reading the works of this prolific figure. Over a century after Bishop Henry McNeal Turner's words touched my ancestor and inspired him to pursue a career in ministry, his legacy and the Henry McNeal Turner project are inspiring and informing me, a member of the "Black Lives Matter" Generation. Matter of fact, Bishop Turner was teaching us that our lives mattered long before there was a movement of that name. His words prophetically foresaw the racial strife in America in the 20th century and as we continue to see the 21st century as well."-James Morgan III, African American Historical & Genealogical Society 

"This project provides a treasure trove of primary source documents that remain particularly important to understanding not only African American history, but the broader history of the role of the Church in the struggle for Civil Rights. The words of Henry McNeal Turner remain remarkably salient in drawing through lines between the history of race and racial discrimination in the United States in the past and the present modes of race and racial discrimination. The powerful words spoken from the pulpit then could be applied to any number of situations today from police-involved shootings to the resurfacing of lynching rhetoric in public spaces."-Sam Perry, Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Public Address, Baylor University


"Henry McNeal Turner has always been a point of reference for my work in Applied Theology. From his essay "God is a Negro" to his insights on the role of choirs in the Black Church, penned in conjunction with the commission considering merger or affiliation between the AME and AMEZ Churches circa 1880, Bishop Turner's voice always called the church at the grassroots level to reflect the highest of aims and the most critical of questions. No wonder that upon his death, no less than WEB DuBois penned, "the last of the great Negro churchmen is dead."-Harold Dean Trulear, Associate Professor of Applied Theology at Howard University School of Divinity and #HMTProject Advisory Board Member

Advisory Board

*Advisory Board members offer advice, counsel and suggestions for the site. If you are interested in becoming an Advisory Board member, send your name and affiliation to Andre E. Johnson at thehmtproject1834@gmail.com


Harold Dean Trulear, PhD-Associate Professor of Applied Theology, Howard University School of Divinity

Cardi B. Wells Teníadé-Black Pensacola  

Michael K. Turner, Ph.D.- Associate Professor of the History of Christianity and Wesleyan Studies, Memphis Theological Seminary.

Dave Louis Adams, Sr.-Pastor, St. Mark AME Church, Munford, Tennessee

Kami Anderson, PhD-Associate Professor in the Department of Digital Writing and Media Arts, Kennesaw State University

Susan Eva O'Donovan, PhD-Associate Professor, History, University of Memphis

Beverly Bond, PhD-Associate Professor, History, University of Memphis

Marsha Foster Boyd, Ph.D., Chief Catalyst Catalyst Connections Global LLC


Roderick Sweet, a graduate student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Kelisha B. Graves, Fayetteville State University



Contact Information

Mailing Address: 
University of Memphis
212 Arts and Communication Building #229
Memphis, Tennessee 38152

Phone: 901-678-5779 


Email: 

thehmtproject1834@gmail.com
ajohnsn6@memphis.edu

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