Document Type


Date of Award



College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences (COLABS)

Degree Name

MA in Sociology

First Advisor

Dr. Homer Garcia


Symbolic interactionists tell us that perceptions and role performances of sexuality and race are likely to vary across populations and can be expressed differently depending on who is doing the interpreting. Conflict theorists would argue, however, that stereotypes serve to maintain race, class, and gender relations. Some theorists view heteronormativity as an oppressive mechanism in human sexuality that imposes Eurocentric ideals on the ways individuals "do gender." African American women as a result of normalized heterosexuality, the modes of sexual conduct, and race, are susceptible to ridicule when performing gender and doing sexuality outside of normally prescribed situations. Overarching ideals superimposed with the politics of respectability limit African American women from freely expressing sexual desires and preferred roles. The purpose of this Master's thesis is to explore to what extent premiere slam poets are searching to define and articulate popular views of the interface of sexuality and 6 race for African American women through their literature and performances. Another goal is to see if popular misconceptions are being criticized and, above all, if there are efforts to redefine and encourage a physically, emotionally, andlor spiritually new image of such women. Using a national ranking of slam poets, the works of the top three top artists are analyzed here. These authors were asked to select their one poem which is most representative of their views of African American women. Having gotten clearance from the Office on the Use of Human Subjects, a content analysis is conducted here, not just of the text of these poems, but also of how these poets recited them before audiences which were presented in YouTube clips. The results indicate that these artists acknowledge the largely negative, but often contradictory stereotypic perceptions of African American women. 7