Publication Date

Summer 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Mazna Patka, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Dwight Vick, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Johnson, Ph.D.


The U.S. minimizes struggles that African Americans have endured since enslavement. Oppression has robbed many minorities from developing their full potential as humans both psychologically and socially. Many African American men grapple with their identity, because their identity is formed by the dominant culture's narrative, developed by European Americans. Thus, the identity of African Americans may not be fully integrate into the dominant narrative which describes the lived experiences envision by African Americans. European Americans, specifically white researchers, maintain the status quo by neglecting African American experiences in academic literature. In order to develop a counter-narrative, researchers need to understand the attitudes and experiences of African Americans.

The present thesis aimed to explore how African American male activists construct their identity through an inductive, qualitative framework. Specifically, the research was designed to address the following research questions (1) How do African American male activists construct their identity? (2) How do African American men activist engage in the community? and (3) How has recent media coverage on the killing of African American men impacted the identity of African American men?

Semi- structured interviews allowed all consenting participants to elaborate on their day-to- day experiences. Seven African American male activists were interviewed. Participation was limited to activists living in Illinois. The interviews were transcribed and then analyzed using Dedoose 4.5.95 web application. Two primary themes emerged from the data analysis. The first theme included characteristic of an activists and the behaviors they engage in. Participants discussed five characteristics they believe they must embodied in order to carry out responsibilities as activists: (1) Building Trusting Relationships (2) Communication Skills (3) Understand the Laws (4) Emotions and (5) Ideology. Each characteristic provide a different definition that described features of an activist. The second theme encompassed past and present forms of oppression experienced by the activists and their communities. Participants described experiences they believe contributed to past and present forms of oppression. The findings from this research provide examples of day-to-day experiences of African American males that can enhance future projects that focus on African American men.