Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Michael Trask


Race Youth in Twentieth-Century American Literature and Culture argues for the centrality of black youth, both real and literary, to the trajectories of African American literature and its repudiation of white supremacy. Drawing on research into the rise of the adolescent and teenager as distinct social categories, I argue that age-based subjectivity should inform how we read race-based subjectivity. My first chapter explores how early twentieth-century black periodicals push back against white supremacist theories of human development in an explicit appeal to what I call “race youth,” the children and adolescents who would take up the mantle of racial uplift. My second chapter examines how, amidst the Great Depression, protest writing reframed youth through a discourse of economic vulnerability to confront the inequity of government accountability in the Roosevelt era. I then consider the influence of the teenage rebel figure on post-1945 African American literature and argue that Cold War black authors unveil the deeply entrenched sexual and racial discourses that regulate and discipline rebellion during the turbulent era of desegregation. The final chapter analyzes twenty-first century young adult protest fiction through the lens of the previous century’s development of black adolescent subjectivity.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This dissertation was supported by funding from the English Department's Summer Dissertation Fellowship in 2017, 2018, and 2019, the English Department's Robert L. Doty Graduate Support Fund in 2018, and the English Department's Semester Dissertation Fellowship in 2018.