Date of Award

Summer 2016

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Religion, PhD


School of Religion

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Vincent L. Wimbush

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Tammi Schneider

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Ruqayya Y. Khan

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Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2016 Robin L. Owens


This dissertation is a critical investigation of the engagements of scriptures in the life and speeches of U.S. Congresswoman Barbara C. Jordan (1936–1996). I engage in a research methodology that utilizes critical historical, auto/biographical, literary, and rhetorical analyses. My research agenda is to explain how scriptures work and are used by Barbara Jordan to illustrate an example of a larger phenomenon of scripturalizing and scripturalization outside of the context of institutional religion. In order to give a fuller context to Barbara Jordan’s rhetorical strategies, as an African American woman, I first consider the lives, speeches and use of scriptures of formidable 19th century African American women orators and political activists, Maria W. Stewart and Anna Julia Cooper, who serve as functional equivalents or precursors to Barbara Jordan. In this study, I found that Barbara Jordan makes American scripture, i.e. the Constitution, function in her speeches as a central component in a discursive rhetorical strategy of indirection, which I refer to as signifying on scriptures. She uses the Constitution, along with her personal history as an African American woman, to pretend mere sociopolitical conviction about social injustice. However, at the same time, she is strategic and intends to promote advocacy for racial justice and gender equality. Jordan uses the Constitution to signify on scriptures in a similar manner to how Maria W. Stewart and Anna Julia Cooper use Christian scriptures, i.e. the Bible, in their speeches to negotiate social and political power.