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From David Walker to President Obama: Tropes of the Founding Fathers in African American Discourses of Democracy, or The Legacy of Ishmael

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Author(s): Elizabeth J. West

Journal: American Studies Journal
ISSN 1433-5239

Issue: 56;
Start page: 6;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: Barack Obama | United States | America | South | politics | rhetoric | Founding Fathers

ABSTRACT
More than a century after the Emancipation Proclamation, in a society that still others blackness, we continue to hold to the mythical humanizing power of literacy. In our own time this has been poignantly evinced in the public reception of the current President of the United States, Barack Obama. He has been internationally hailed for his written and oral eloquence, and many Americans expected that Obama’s evident intellectual prowess would reverse prevailing stereotypes of black inferiority. Obama’s rhetorical success is rooted in the longstanding literary practice of invoking the mythical founding fathers to validate text and subject. In this regard, David Walker’s Appeal (1829) represents the emergence of a long tradition of black voices invoking America’s most sacred patriarchs and their rhetoric of Americanness.
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