More Daring, More Beautiful
The purpose of this study was to identify and analyze the constructions of Black American masculinity in four commonly taught texts in the high school English curriculum: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Twain, 1884), Their Eyes Were Watching God (Hurston, 1937), A Raisin in the Sun (Hansberry, 1959), and To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee, 1960). For this qualitative study design, critical content analysis, a theoretical approach that brings a critical lens to an analysis of a text or group of texts to explore the potential underlying messages within those texts, was deemed most useful. A modified version of Curry’s (2017) Black masculinity theory was applied to deconstruct representations of Black American masculinity and to examine whether such images are stereotypical to the extent that they reflect, destabilize, and reinforce gender-biased and racist depictions of Black American males. Employing Black masculinity theory emphasized the complexity of the Black male characters and sought to understand the marginalization of Black males as a function of their race and sex. Utilizing critical content analysis and Black masculinity theory to analyze the constructions of Black American masculinity in commonly taught texts revealed major and minor generative themes. A significant finding of this study was that several of the Black American male characters were flat figures and were not portrayed as complex, self-reflective beings. Rather, the characters under examination were constructed to fulfill the expectations and fears of those around them. In general, all of the males under examination were portrayed to reflect the deleterious global images of the Black American male. A second important finding was that for many of the Black male characters, their maleness exacerbated and nuanced the racism they faced. A valuable conclusion in light of these findings indicated that the portrayals of the Black American male characters are negatively stereotyped based on their gender and race. The findings of this study have a number of important implications for future practice. One implication is that being aware of the negative portrayals of Black American males in texts may assist practitioners and other stakeholders to diversify the types of texts taught by scrutinizing the characters portrayed in texts and to facilitate robust, complex in-class discussions about racially minoritized characters, especially Black American males. Another implication of this work is that it is important that educators engage students in discussions in which racist and gender-biased stereotypes of Black American male characters' masculinity are not sustained. A final implication of this study is that secondary school English teachers must begin to apply theories of masculinity to the study of texts.