The Ethiopian Prophecy in Black American Letters

Roy Kay

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"Taking up the reading of a poignant passage of scriptures as analytical wedge, this work is an impressive study of the complexity of the history of African American identity formation and orientation to the world."--Vincent L. Wimbush, author of The Bible and African Americans: A Brief History

"Sound, theoretically sophisticated, and yields brilliant readings of the text, The Ethiopian Prophecy in Black American Letters will stand the test of time."--Katherine Clay Bassard, author of Transforming Scriptures: African American Women Writers and the Bible

For centuries, Psalm 68:31 "Princes shall come forth out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch forth her hands unto God," also known as the Ethiopian prophecy, has served as a pivotal and seminal text for those of African descent in the Americas.
Originally, it was taken to mean that the slavery of African Americans was akin to the slavery of the Hebrews in Egypt, and thus it became an articulation of the emancipation struggle. However, it has also been used as an impetus for missionary work in Africa, as an inspirational backbone for the civil rights movement, and as a call for a separate black identity during the twentieth century.
Utilizing examples from Richard Allen, Maria W. Stewart, Kate Drumgoold, Phillis Wheatley, Martin Delany, W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, and Ralph Ellison, Kay reveals the wide variety of ways this verse has been interpreted and conceptualized in African American history and letters for more than two hundred years.

Roy Kay teaches college preparatory English at DeLaSalle High School in Minnesota. He was assistant professor at the University of Saint Thomas, Macalester College, and the University of Utah.

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"…a must-read for anyone interested in exploring the ways in which the 'Ethiopian Prophecy' has been used by black intellectuals over the past three centuries."
--International Bulletin of Missionary Research

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