Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Atkinson, Ted., III

Committee Member

Shaffer, Donald

Committee Member

Hanshaw, Shirley

Date of Degree


Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Open Access


Richard Wright's Black Boy, Alice Walker's Meridian, and Ernest Gaines's The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman depict the African American struggle for rights and freedom both before, during, and after the recognized Civil Rights Era. By exploring the novels’ definitions of freedom, this work examines how these definitions inform the characters’ search for freedom. Using Wright, Walker, and Gaines to follow the freedom struggle from slavery to the post-civil rights era provides a comprehensive, historical framework for understanding the evolving rhetoric of freedom. Reflecting a “long,” complicated history of the Civil Rights Movement, these novels obscure a simplified, dichotomous understanding of the movement and provide a multivalent definition of freedom that encompasses both the political and psychological self. Ultimately, this research analyzes how these authors respond to each other and the racial and political climate of their time and examines how the search for freedom changes over time.