"Colored Women Sittin' on High: Womanist Sermonic Practice in Literature and Music"

“Through the artful lens of the Black sacred tradition, "Colored Women Sittin' on High" illustrates the ingenuity and impact of black women preachers' sermonic work in African American literature and music, foregrounding notions of value, transformation, healing, and communal empowerment. ”

Team Members/Contributors

Melanie R. Hill Rutgers University, Newark Contact Me

About this first book grant for scholars of color

This book project uses music to make an interdisciplinary intervention among the intersections of African-American literary criticism, music, and religious studies. Though scholarship in African- American literary and cultural studies has examined the importance of voice in Black women’s cultural production, the cultural figure of the Black woman preacher in literature, music, and the pulpit remains unstudied as a focus of current scholarship. Using the sermon as a literary genre, this project seeks to undertake a close examination of the Black woman preacher in all three realms of discursive practice. By looking at the exegetical, eschatological, and pedagogical elements of Womanist Sermonic Practice, I investigate how performance of the sermon is personified through the Black woman preacher’s emphasis on musicality, expressivity, thematic relevance, and improvisatory phrasing.

By formulating a methodology that seeks to think critically about how Black womanist sermonic practice occurs in the intersections of Black feminism/womanism and oral performativity in both sermon and song, I work to help readers think differently about how sermonic space empowers the Black woman preacherly figure to utilize the sermon to speak on issues of race, class, gender and sexuality. Womanist sermonic practice looks at the heteroglossic functions of black women preachers in literature and music in order to show how they use their sermons to create a chromatic space that amalgamates both sermon and song.

When looking through the lens of the Black sermonic tradition how the work of Black women preachers/theologians liberates, redeems, and transforms in transcendent ways Black people through the art of the sermon, womanist thought is a critical lens through which this book examines the Black woman preacher in literature, music, and in the making of her own sacred sermonic space.