The “Scold of Black America”: Obama, Race, and the African American Audience


In this article, the author argues that Obama's speech after the Zimmerman verdict also signaled a change on how Obama addressed Black audiences. In short, although Obama generally eschewed race after the Gates incident, his messaging to African Americans about race led him to become, as Ta-Nehisi Coates called him, the “scold of Black America.” Therefore, first, the author examines Obama's rhetoric when talking to or about African Americans after the Gates incident. Second, he moves to Obama's rhetoric after the Zimmerman verdict and after a Missouri grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson for shooting to death Michael Brown. Specifically, by examining 2 speeches—the 50th anniversary of Selma and the eulogy for the Emanuel Nine as rhetoric of commemoration, the author argue that Obama's rhetoric of race indeed shifted and issues germane to African Americans found their way into the national spotlight again.

Publication Title

Howard Journal of Communications