Slave evangelicalism, shouting, and the beginning of African American writing

Douglas A. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This essay argues that African American writing emerged as a consequence of slave evangelicalism’s ecstatic worship practices, the frenzied, uncontrollable, and unrehearsed behaviors that are commonly referred to as “shouting.” Persons shout when they are seized by God through the Holy Spirit, and the affective and intellectual qualities slaves acquired while shouting disposed them to take up written discourse and literary culture more broadly as viable enterprises with which to express political dissent and pursue aesthetic fulfillment. This essay establishes shouting’s conceptual formations and contextual features, then reads Richard Allen’s “Spiritual Song” (c. 1800) as well as Jupiter Hammon’s An Address to the Negroes in the State of New-York (1786/7) and “The Kind Master and the Dutiful Servant” (n.d.) as works that exemplify how shouting shaped the figural, ideological, and rhetorical dimensions of early black literary and textual productions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-95
Number of pages27
JournalEarly American Literature
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Literature and Literary Theory


  • African spirit possession
  • Early African American literature
  • Shouting
  • Slave religion


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