Julia A. J. Foote: Foundational African American feminist Christian Evangelist of the 1800s




Sawyer, Pamela Ballard

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Julia A. J. Foote was an African American Christian evangelist who wrote A Brand Plucked from the Fire: An Autobiographical Sketch (1879), which serves as the primary source for this rhetorical analysis. Foote's acquisition, application, and use of rhetoric were given authority from the Holiness Movement. She, then, applied her self-educated rhetorical skills by combining Christianity with social movements. As a black woman she experienced a double hardship of gender and race. Evident in her life and work are effects of marginalization from her patriarchal society as well as the racial prejudices that existed during the era.

This rhetorical analysis is based on a close reading of her text and a historical overview to contextualize her work. A Burkean analysis was conducted on her book by applying the five elements of the Dramatistic Pentad to determine her grammar of motives. Evidence demonstrates Foote's agency was firmly established in her use of common, everyday rhetoric to persuade. Through the use of consubstantiation the audience shared the symbolic and figurative meanings from the Bible to understand the social movements of the day. Additionally, Foote's use of identification allowed her to connect with her audience as she shared the events in her life, Biblical scriptures, and the hope for the future. Through a literacy analysis of Foote's text, new illumination on the connection of literacy and rhetorical training is examined. The findings suggest the masses employed social construction of rhetorical tools rather than the rhetorical traditions established in higher education's curriculum.

Foote's rhetorical approach, reminiscent of the traits of sophistic rhetoric, allowed her to effectively connect with and persuade audiences. She serves as an example of how culture, religion, and contextualization serve an epistemic function of rhetoric for common citizens. More scholarly research on Foote is encouraged in the following areas: African American rhetorical history, comparative studies of nineteenth-century African American men and women evangelists who have been overlooked, post-modern theorists (Bakhtin and Foucault) applications to Christian evangelists in the 1800s, rhetoric of Christianity, and Pentecostal women in rhetorical constructions.



Philosophy, Religion and theology, Social sciences, Language, literature, and linguistics, African-american, Kenneth Burke, Evangelism, Feminist, Julia A. J. Foote, Holiness movement