Theses Doctoral

Not Your Average Brotha: Examining the Educational Lives, Literacies and Masculinities of Black Males

Belle, Crystal

Current educational research shows that Black males are underperforming in urban high schools across the nation (Noguera, 2009). Typically over-disciplined and underserved, the schooling experiences of Black young men continue to be highlighted by violence, machismo and high drop out rates. There has been a push by scholars to reframe the dialogue and pedagogical strategies for Black boys in order to transform teaching and learning (Morton & Toldson, 2012). However, little research has been conducted on how adult Black men remember their high school experiences.
Using a Critical Race Theory epistemology that draws upon sociocultural conceptions of literacy and poetry as research, this dissertation explored how former Black male students aged 20-30 remembered their secondary schooling experiences and how their respective literacies (New London Group, 1996) impacted their perceptions of Black masculinities and education. Through the qualitative method of portraiture, visual images of four participants were constructed through poetry, journal entries and recorded face-to-face conversations. Because “understandings of Black men and boys are scripted and made legible in the United States within the context of the lowest expectations” (Neal, 2012), the ongoing conversations with the men were meant to explore that stereotypical representation while recreating perceptions of who Black men are in a multifaceted way. It is critical to look at how the secondary classroom is remembered and how it may impact an individual’s conception of self and life outcomes. Considering Toni Morrison’s rememory (1987), which refers to the ability of an individual to both remember as well as reconstruct the past, the men were asked to recall their experiences in New York City public schools over the course of a four-month period. The study addresses these questions specifically: 1) How does a select group of men who identify as Black, (re)member the secondary English classroom? 2) What do these (re)memberings indicate about their interpretations of their respective literacies, teaching/learning and their lives? 3) What are the participants’ perceptions of what counts as literacy? 4) How do they critique (if at all) their public educational experiences and how does this impact their understandings of their own masculinities? Some key findings as a result of the research questions include: 1) Black male literacies are not honored in New York City Public high schools 2) Black masculinities are a constant threat in schools and urban communities 3) Black men have collective racialized memories about experiences in NYC public schools and 4) English educators often avoid discussions of race in their students’ lives.
These key findings reveal that the intersections between race, masculinities and literacies play a pivotal role in English education while challenging some of the current research in the field and can have transformative implications for researchers, policy makers and practitioners as reflected throughout the data and analysis.



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More About This Work

Academic Units
English Education
Thesis Advisors
Morrell, Ernest
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 12, 2015