Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Timothy Askew, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Alma Vinyard, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Corey Stayton, Ph.D.


Prophet Muhammad stated, “A white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.” Because of the continual idea of race as a social construct, this study examines the memoirs of Douglass, Jacobs and Malcolm X, as it relates to the narrative of self and identity. They have written their personal autobiographies utilizing diction as a tool that develops their art of storytelling about their distinct life journeys. These protagonists utilize their autobiographical experiences to construct a generational transference of race and identity from when Douglass was born in 1818, to Jacob’s escape to freedom in 1838 to the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965.

Historically, the texts are written from where slavery was still an institution until it was abolished in 1865, proceeding through to the Civil Rights movement. Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs and Malcolm X will experience racial trauma throughout their personal narratives that were life-altering events that severely influenced them as they matured from adolescence to adulthood. The writer has determined that, “Racial trauma can be chracterized as being physically and or psychologically damaged because of one’s race or skin color that permanently has long lasting negative effects on an individual’s thoughts, behavior or emotions,” i.e., African American victims of police brutality are racially traumatized because they suffer with behavioral problems and stress, after their encounters.

This case study is based on the definition of race as a social construct for Douglass, Jacobs and Malcolm X’s narratives that learn to self-identify beyond the restrictions of racial discrimination which eventually manifests into white oppression in a world that does not readily embrace them. Their autobiographies provide self-reflection and a broad comprehension about how and why they were entrenched by race. Douglass, Jacobs and Malcolm X were stereotyped, socially segregated, and internalized awareness of despair because of their race.

Conclusions drawn from Frederick Douglass-Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: American Slave, Harriet Jacobs-Incidences of a Slave Girl, and Malcolm X’s- Autobiography of Malcolm X will exemplify the subject of African American narrators countering racism and maneuvering in society.