Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Sandra J. Sarkela

Committee Member

Antonio Raul de Velasco

Committee Member

Katherine Grace Hendrix


AbstractThis exploratory study of womanist preaching seeks an answer to the question: how does womanist preaching attempt to transform/adapt the tenets of womanist thought to make it rhetorically viable in the church?And what is gained and lost in this? Through a close reading of various texts, I am able to discover: 1) what rhetorical strategies are employed to advance the womanist position, 2) how sermons function to raise the audience’s critical awareness, 3) how the sermons lead to the transformation of the audience, and 4) how to differentiate between the various facets of womanist preaching. This project identifies five women who are considered exemplars of womanist preaching and analyzes their sermons based on the four different categories or phrased tenets that Stacey Floyd-Thomas uses to represent Alice Walker’s four tenets of “womanism”—radical subjectivity, traditional communalism, redemptive self-love, and critical engagement.The Radical Subjectivity chapter examines Elaine Flake’s sermon, “The Power of Enough,” and Gina Stewart’s sermon, “Enough Is Enough!” to understand what rhetorical strategies are necessary when a preacher needs to encourage women, on their journey toward identity formation, self-love, and self-worth, to make revolutionary changes regarding their current situations.The Traditional Communalism chapter examines how Cheryl Kirk-Duggan’s sermon, “Women of the Cloth” is used to pass down cultural knowledge from one generation to the next.The Redemptive Self-Love chapter examines Melva L. Sampson’s sermon, “Hell No!” in an effort to understand what Walker means when she says that we are to love ourselves regardless. The Critical Engagement chapter examines Claudette Copeland’s sermon, “What Shall We Do for Our Sisters?” to understand how womanist preachers also function as cultural critics and how they engage major questions in multiple disciplines and social contexts.The final chapter serves as a three-part conclusion by providing a contextualized summary and diagram of the various rhetorical strategies, sermonic functions, and methodological approaches used by Flake, Stewart, Kirk-Duggan, Sampson, and Copeland.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.