Where I want to be: African American women's novels and the journey toward selfhood during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements

2010 2010

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Abstract (summary)

This dissertation examines how contemporary African American women writers have used the novel of selfhood to represent African American girls' and women's struggle to achieve self-understanding and development during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. In doing so, this dissertation expounds on the ways in which race, class, gender, sexuality, social justice movements, and community affect African American female characters' journey toward selfhood. Through this study I am interested in exploring the messages African American communities communicate to girls and women about life, race, gender, and sexuality. How characters interpret this information and then negotiate between their individual desires and goals and the expectations of their communities, as well as the effect learning about African American or African Diaspora history and culture has on protagonists are also central concerns here.

The novels analyzed in this study are Alice Walker's Meridian (1976), Ntozake Shange's Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo (1982), and Toni Morrison's Love (2003). Drawing upon male, female, and African American Bildungsroman scholarship, Civil Rights and Black Power ideology, and black feminist theoretical frameworks, this study offers an interdisciplinary close textual analysis of African American women's novels of selfhood depicting several models of self-development to illuminate the struggles African American women face in their journey toward selfhood. This dissertation diverges from previous scholarship in that it places greater emphasis on the role of community and explores the influence the social justice movements of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, specifically the Civil Rights, Black Power/Black Arts, and Women's liberation movements had on African American women's self-concept.

Indexing (details)

African American Studies;
Black studies;
Womens studies;
American literature;
Gender studies
0296: African American Studies
0325: Black studies
0453: Womens studies
0591: American literature
0733: Gender studies
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Language, literature and linguistics; African American women's novels; Bildungsroman; Black Power; Black Power movement; Civil rights movement; Feminism; Morrison, Toni; Selfhood; Shange, Ntozake; Walker, Alice
Where I want to be: African American women's novels and the journey toward selfhood during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements
Jones, Jacqueline M.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 72/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Smethurst, James
Committee member
Gore, Dayo; Jimoh, A Yemisi; Tracy, Steven
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Afro-American Studies
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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