Skip to main content

See also:

Churches were where courage was encouraged

Antiphonal preaching involves a congregation, and the black church nurtured it. In the sixties, it wasn’t cool reasoned discourse but was passionately persuasive. It forecast and echoed clusters of committed souls who planned and protested. It celebrated those who put their bodies on the line and who, when arrested, earned graduation diplomas because they chose jail without bail. It wasn’t authoritative rhetoric but is self-persuasive rhetoric.

The excerpt presented below was recorded in Atlanta during the sit-ins, boycotts, and picketing of restaurants—before desegregation of schools, before the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech and before President Lyndon Johnson’s saying “We shall over” and signing a civil rights bill. This excerpt is in the Prologue of my play Tape-In.
Black Preacher You who’ve got backbone,
Responses by individuals in the Congregation are in italics (Yes)
Black Preacher You who’ve got character, (Yes)
Black Preacher You know the way God is moving, (Yes)
Black Preacher Keep on moving. (Yes, keep on moving.)
Black Preacher You’ve got a song to sing, (Yes)
Black Preacher Don’t let nobody (Yes)
Black Preacher Turn you around. (Applause)
Black Preacher Nobody, (Nobody)
Black Preacher Nobody, (Nobody)
Black Preacher Know your rights. (Stay there)
Black Preacher Stay there (Stay there)
Black Preacher Stay there (Stay there)
Black Preacher Stay there (Stay there)
Black Preacher If mamma don’t like it, (Like it)
Black Preacher Well, I’m sorry. (Shout it, Shout it!)
Black Preacher Stay there, (Stay there)
Black Preacher Stay there (Stay there)
Black Preacher Till heaven gets happy (Yes)
Black Preacher And hell gets sad. (Yes)
Black Preacher Stay there. (Stay there.)
Black Preacher If you have to stand there by yourself, (Yeah)
Black Preacher Don’t let nobody turn you around. (Applause)
Black Preacher God forbid (Yes sir, yes sir)
Black Preacher That I would ever go downtown again (All right, well say it then.)
Black Preacher And buy a suit of clothes for a hundred dollars at one time (Yes, go ahead now)
Black Preacher And walk over to another counter and say, “May I have a cup of coffee? (Ummm)
Black Preacher You take my Easter money with one hand (Yes)
And you tell me get the hell out of there with the other. (Applause, cheers, yes sir, yes sir, yes sir.)
Black Preacher I tell you never, (Applause continuing)
Black Preacher Long as I live, (Yes)
Black Preacher I’m going to have a little more sense than that. (Yes)
Black Preacher I tell you never, (Never)
Black Preacher I don’t care what you wanna’ do on your own, (Yes)
Black Preacher But never, (NEVER, NEVER, NEVER)
Black Preacher As long as my head is warm and black, (Yes)
Black Preacher Never will I do this thing again. (Yes sir, never, yes sir.)

We are a more humane and civil because of antiphonal preaching, and we still need it because more than a handful of states today are eroding laws that facilitate voting.