Date of Award

Summer 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Timothy Robinson

Committee Member

Dana Heller

Committee Member

Delores Phillips

Committee Member

Jody Allen


This dissertation names and identifies the African American Eulogic Tradition as a specific custom within Black culture in the U.S. that originated during slavery and resulted from a fusion of West African burial traditions and Protestant Christianity. The emergence of the Black Church as an influential social institution led by free Blacks cemented the use of funerary practices to support and preserve the bonds of community. This project explores how modern eulogists collectively empower African American audiences through their delivery of Eulogic oratory by analyzing the contextual framework and rhetorical modes of eulogies delivered for Whitney Houston, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King. Through studying the social impact of public, oral performances given by African American preachers and orators in the last decade, this dissertation establishes that the African American Eulogic Tradition still exists and that Black Americans use it to disseminate African American Compound Collective Rhetoric, a term I coined to classify the strategic, open communication shared by Blacks, in open spaces, to aid them in overcoming injustices that permeate their life experiences as Black Americans.