The Art Of Whooping

The art of whooping in the Black Church, you may ask, what is that?…and there are many definitions from the hearer’s standpoint.  Practitioners may have a more elegant, more utilitarian even a definition describing its importance and relevance in the worship experience.

 However, the best definition of whooping will be caught in the preaching experiences where it is practiced. Just remember it is an art practiced through the personality of the preacher and you will know it when you hear it.

 Whether you like or not, understand it or not,it is probably a function of religious cultural tradition. Growing up in the Black Church whooping was and still is in many places, the primary way the preacher and the congregation connect as one and worship the Lord in celebration of our victory in Him.

 Whooping is a coronation of the Lord in it’s most eloquent form. It is a inspirational motivation ecstatic time when we worship The Lord.

 The Possible Origin of Whooping

It is likely that the fine art of Whooping can be traced to the oral traditions of the African culture. It has been well documented that in the African culture the transmittal of information to be remembered was done orally.

Stories were told, folktales recited, religious beliefs were passed on from one generation to another through oral communication. There was no need to put pen to paper.

 “…Most African people did not invent an alphabet for the art of reading and writing. Therefore they could not keep written records of their history. Instead they passed on information from one generation to another, by word of mouth.”

                                                                           John S. Mbiti 1975       

Many African societies placed value on the oral transmittal of feelings, attitudes and moral values on how to live in the community.

 They explained the mysteries of the universe, life on earth and their sense of the world to fit an oral model.

We find the tradition continue among the early American Slaves as we see that important information passed from one to another in the form of group songs. Sing information became the CBS/ABC broadcast  that day among African Slaves.

 Early Whoopers

When the early itinerant preachers would preach to their congregants we see the emergence of a stylized art communication steeped in African oral tradition but evolved to meet the needs of that day.

In early America after the Emancipation Proclamation (1870-1898) H. Edward Bryant, presiding Elder in Selma, Alabama, District of the A.M.E. Church wrote…

  “I have visited many preachers, and have seldom found one with a single work on systematic theology, a dictionary, commentary or work on ethics”…”all sound and no sense, depending upon stentorian lungs, and a long-drawn mourn, for their success.”

                   The Negro in the Making of America by Benjamin Quarles, 1969

A sing-song call and response often found in the negro spirituals during the days of slavery has evolved into “Meter” in many African-American churches of today.  The power of this communication form even pervaded the way deacons prayed  until about forty years ago.

So, whooping appears of have its origins in the depths of oral African tradition. After the pain, humiliation and horrors of the American System of Slavery…a resilient people rises to the highest level of its celebration in an intuitive connection with The Lord Jesus Christ.

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