The Performed Word is African American folklorist Gerald L. Davis’ guided tour of African American expressive culture. Although he claimed to be “unchurched,” Davis explores with great depth and passion the African American sermon, expanding it into an exploration of the aesthetics of African American culture.
As folklorist John Roberts wrote in The Journal of American Folklore “When Gerald L. Davis passed away in October of 1997, the field of folklore lost one of its finest scholars, and many folklorists lost one of their best friends… Jerry was a man who had a tender regard for humanity and dispensed it through an infectious laugh and a bear hug that was readily available to all.” At a time, when there were fewer African American scholars in the field, he generously shared an insider’s perspective on African American culture. This film, which he narrates, gives viewers the opportunity to appreciate first hand his point of view on African American expressive culture. Viewers interested in the African American sermon should access Davis’ book, I Got the Word in Me and I Can Sing It You Know:" A Study of the Performed African American Sermon (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985). They may also be interested in his invited plenary address to the American Folklore Society, published as "'Somewhere Over the Rainbow. . .'" Judy Garland in Never-Never Land," Journal of American Folklore 109:432 (Spring 1996) 1-14.