Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


American Studies


Simon Stow

Committee Member

Charles McGovern

Committee Member

Francesca Sawaya


This master’s thesis portfolio is analyzing the music of contemporary hip-hop artists and the autobiographical work of 20th-century Indigenous writer and political activist Zitkala-Ša. A close reading methodology is used to analyze all the writing included in this body of work. The purpose is to examine the importance of community building within Black and Indigenous communities in the wake of political and social injustice. This portfolio uses the theoretical work of Audrey Lorde, Sianne Nagi, and Robert Warrior to provide support for the central thesis. All the subjects in this portfolio are writing from a first-person point of view and discussing topics of death, racism, and injustice. Concurrently, the autobiographical nature of both Zitkala-Sá’s work and hip-hop music promotes an environment where readers and listeners are empowered to discuss issues of emotional trauma due to racist institutional and cultural practices and gender issues. The implication of mental health awareness is drawn from the examination of lyrics from six hip-hop songs released in the last eleven years. Additionally, the vulnerability of Black hip-hop artists encourages the destigmatization of mental health issues within their communities. Lastly, the scientific findings of the effects of music on the human body, while still new and inconclusive, are used to highlight the apparent significance of music in everyday life. This portfolio offers further insight into the lasting and profound impact of community building.




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