Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

A process of becoming: U.S. born African American and Black women in a process of liberation from internalized racism

Tanya Ovea Williams, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Internalized racism is a contributing factor to the inability of African Americans to overcome racism. (Speight, 2007) Because this is a cognitive phenomenon over which individuals can have agency, it is important to study, understand, and seek out ways that African Americans are able to gain a liberatory perspective in the midst of a racist society. By using colonization psychology and post-traumatic slave psychology to define the phenomenon, and Jackson's Black identity development model theory to ground and analyze participants' process of liberation, this study used phenomenological in-depth interviewing to understand the experiences of African American and Black women who have gained more consciousness of their internalized racism. The researcher interviewed 11 U.S. Born African American and Black women for an hour and a half to gain their understanding of internalized racism and liberation. The study found that Black and African American women in a process of liberation (1) move from experiencing lack of control to an experience of having agency; (2) gain agency from developing greater knowledge and pride of a positive black identity; (3) replace negative socialization with a knowledge of self; and 4) are supported in their liberation by a systemic analysis of racism. The study also found that (1) internalized racism and liberation are complexly defined phenomena, (2) participants continued to practice manifestations of internalized racism while practicing a liberatory consciousness, which confirms the theories of the cyclical nature of identity, and (3) racial identity development models offer a framework for understanding a transition from internalized racism towards liberation but lack clarity about how transformation actually occurs.

Subject Area

African American Studies|Black studies|Womens studies|Social studies education|Developmental psychology|Cognitive psychology

Recommended Citation

Williams, Tanya Ovea, "A process of becoming: U.S. born African American and Black women in a process of liberation from internalized racism" (2011). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3465244.