In this important and controversial book, Geneva Smitherman defines Black English as
comprising a set of grammatical and phonetic rules, a special lexicon, and a particular rhetorical style. In analyzing these elements, she discusses attitudes toward language and explains the differences in usage and in linguistic attitudes that often lead to misunderstandings between blacks and whites and offers specific suggestions for public policy that would recognize the validity and make use of Black English. Shifting occasionally into Black Idiom as she writes, Dr. Smitherman makes clear that Black English is a vital and effective language, as legitimate a form of speech as British, American, or Australian English.
Dr. Smitherman relies heavily on black culture and its inherent African oral tradition for examining and understanding black speech. Talkin and Testifyin provides the immediacy of a culture, language, and experience that ranges from African villages to Motown, from myth to reality, from the sacred to the secular. Interwoven throughout the text as evidence for the author’s arguments are the words of Frederick Douglass, Curtis Mayfield, W.E.B. Dubois, Richard Pharr, lmamu Baraka, Claude Brown, Nikki Giovanni, Smokey Robinson, Maya Angelou, Richard Wright, Bessie Smith, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Stag-O-Lee, Martin Luther King, Jr. , Chinua Achebe, Langston Hughes, James Brown, Adam Clayton Powell, Isaac Hayes, Malcolm X, Aretha Franklin, Haki Madhubuti, Frankie Crocker, the Reverend C.L. Franklin, Jesse B. Simple, and many others.