Speaking Power

Black Feminist Orality in Women's Narratives of Slavery

By DoVeanna S. Fulton Minor

Subjects: African American Studies
Paperback : 9780791466384, 186 pages, June 2006
Hardcover : 9780791466377, 186 pages, January 2006

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Table of contents

Preface Black Feminist Orality: Identifying a Tradition

Introduction “So my mother told me”: African American Women’s Writing and Oral Traditions

1. Speak Sisters, Speak: Oral Empowerment in Louisa Picquet, The Octoroon; The Narrative of Sojourner Truth; and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

2. Tale-Baring and Dressing Out: Black Women’s Speech Acts That Expose Torture and Abuse by Slave Mistresses in Our Nig, Sylvia Dubois, and The Story of Mattie J. Jackson

3. Strategic Silence: Respectability, Gender, and Protest in Iola Leroy and Contending Forces

4. “Will the circle be unbroken”: (Dis)Locating Love within the Legacy of Slavery in Their Eyes Were Watching God and Corregidora

5. Black Girls Singing Black Girls’ Songs: Exploring the Wounds of Slavery to Heal Contemporary Pain in Beloved, Dessa Rose, Kindred, and The Gilda Stories

Coda Sister Griot-Historians: Representing Events and Lives for Liberation


Analyzes Black women’s rhetorical strategies in both autobiographical and fictional narratives of slavery.


In Speaking Power, DoVeanna S. Fulton explores and analyzes the use of oral traditions in African American women's autobiographical and fictional narratives of slavery. African American women have consistently employed oral traditions not only to relate the pain and degradation of slavery, but also to celebrate the subversions, struggles, and triumphs of Black experience. Fulton examines orality as a rhetorical strategy, its role in passing on family and personal history, and its ability to empower, subvert oppression, assert agency, and create representations for the past. In addition to taking an insightful look at obscure or little-studied slave narratives like Louisa Picquet, the Octoroon and the Narrative of Sojourner Truth, Fulton also brings a fresh perspective to more familiar works, such as Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and Harriet Wilson's Our Nig, and highlights Black feminist orality in such works as Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God and Gayl Jones's Corregidora.

DoVeanna S. Fulton is Associate Professor of English at Arizona State University.