Date of Award

8-1-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Bennett A. Rafoth, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Nancy Hayward, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Elaine Richardson, Ph.D.

Abstract

This empirical study explores the non-academic or out of school literacy and literacies practices of 10 undergraduate women of African descent, ages 18-24, to help better understand how they view themselves as literate beings in the 21st century. Through the lens of Afrafeminist ideology, studies related to power, language and identity, women’s literacy, and Black women’s literacy, this study examines how these women use literacy as a social practice in their everyday lives to make meaning of the world around them. The primary methods of data collection included in-depth interviews, written statements on the value of literacy, written statements on early literacy practices, and artifacts. Analysis of the data led to the following findings: participants see themselves as strong, intelligent women who are empowered by literacy/literacies; participants view literacy as a legacy to be obtained and passed on to future generations; participants view literacy as a vehicle to opportunity and success; participants engage in non-academic literacy practices on a regular basis; some participants do non-academic writing on a daily basis. As women of African descent from various part of the Diaspora, the participants are aware of racial bias and the effects of double consciousness or multiple consciousness, which includes the intersection of culture, class, gender and location, on their lives. They however, exercise agency and authority, and do not allow these conflicting notions to confine them. These findings suggest that American society, the higher education community, and particularly English Studies professionals should be sensitive to the needs and culture of members of this historically marginalized group, who in this moment in time, when the U. S. has a Black President, still view themselves as “outsiders.”

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