Student Author(s)

Rachel Johnson, Hope College

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Sarah Kornfield, Communication

Document Type


Event Date



National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman stunned the United States with her captivating performance of “The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country” during the 2021 inaugural ceremony for President Biden and Vice President Harris. Analyzing this political poem, we contribute to the rhetorical scholarship of inaugural ceremonies and demonstrate how Gorman’s performance renews the tradition of Black jeremiads. Specifically, we argue that Gorman’s performance creates a “double play” on white expectations, thereby crafting a rival version of democratic unity as she poetically envisions a “We, the people” that does not center on white men and is not sponsored by white aesthetic and rhetorical traditions. Ultimately, we demonstrate how Gorman’s Black poetic jeremiad calls Americans into a democracy that rejects white supremacist assumptions of the good life.


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