English Ph.D. Dissertations


Claiming and Framing African American Male Ethos: Case Studies of the Literacy Practices of Two African American Male Writers

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Lee Nickoson (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Timothy Murnen (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Donna Nelson-Beene (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Sue Carter Wood (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Steve Lamos (Committee Member)


This qualitative case study project explored the literacy practices of two eighteen-year-old African American males who were enrolled in two separate predominantly White four-year universities in Northwest Ohio. I studied their literacy practices because limited research exists in Composition Studies on African American males, particularly on African American males who self-identify as successful writers. Many African American males meet the objectives of first-year writing courses the first time they take them, yet far too many of them do not succeed in those courses. Hence, it is imperative that literacy studies scholars, compositionists, and writing program administrators study successful African American male writers so they might learn how to improve the writing skills of more African American males. Findings show that four general factors contributed to key participants’ success in first-year writing courses: 1) their acquisition of literacies at home, 2) their ability to carry literacies from home to school, 3) their use of school and non-school resources to help them further develop their literacies, and 4) their dispositions regarding formal education, which, for the most part, were shaped by their African American fathers’ perspectives on formal education. In essence, key participants’ literacy practices are only one of the primary factors that impacted their success in first-year writing courses. This project has import for Composition Studies, particularly because one of its cases includes attention to a participant’s father’s voice and the pivotal role he played in the development of his son’s literacy practices. I urge writing teachers to consider the full range of students’ literacies and to integrate the voices of successful African American males in Composition Studies research. These scholarly practices will likely increase the achievement rate among African American males in first-year writing courses.