Black Americans have always relied on the oral tradition — storytelling, preaching, and speechmaking — to assert their rights and preserve and pass on their history and culture. In the pulpit, courtroom, or cotton field, they have understood the power of words, distinctively delivered, to educate and inspire.
Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., one of the nation’s finest speakers, imbibed this tradition as a young man and has given it his own unique inflection from his work on the civil rights front lines, to the National Urban League, to positions of influence at the highest level of business and politics. A friend and confidant to presidents, Jordan has never forgotten the men and women — from Ruby Hurley to Wiley Branton to Gardner C. Taylor to Martin Luther King, Jr. — whose oratorical skill in service to social justice deeply influenced him. Their examples and voices, reflected in Vernon’s own, make this book both a history and an embodiment of black speech at its finest: Full of emotion, controlled force, righteous indignation, love of country, and awe in front of the God-given challenges ahead.