Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Earl Cheek, Jr


Through methods of ethnographic research this study explores the attitudes toward literacy and the motivation to read of African American male secondary school students in an urban community. This study includes historical inquiry obtained through the gathering of oral histories from men who experienced their youth and adolescence in the same geographic area as the secondary school students. Over the past fifty years the neighborhood focused on in this study has undergone tremendous change, both societal and structural. Information obtained through the interviews of the older men and the younger men will be compared to determine changes in literacy attitudes, beliefs, and practices. The information gained from this study allows educators to examine the role of attitudes toward literacy within a specific cultural group. Historical background for future research into the role literacy plays in school, church, home, and community life for African American males was gained from the interviews of the older men. Insights into the importance of and the value placed on literacy among African American males, a group largely labeled at risk of failure, were gained from the interviews of the secondary school students. These insights may lead to greater cultural awareness and understanding of students by educators.