Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access 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 talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.

Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Afro-American Studies

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

James Smethurst

Second Advisor

John Bracey

Third Advisor

Britt Rusert

Fourth Advisor

Jordy Rosenberg

Subject Categories

American Literature | Arts and Humanities


ABSTRACT Contrary to the traditional view that there is lack of utopian dimension in African American literature, this dissertation argues that African American literature not only develops an exuberant utopian tradition, but also forms its own utopian uniqueness. Based on this conclusion, the dissertation specially focuses on the period between the 1880s and the first two decades of the 20th century that witnessed the first peak of African American utopian writing. Meanwhile, this era has been claimed as the “Golden Age” of Black Nationalism. Through the examination of the historical background of the co-existence of these two conflicting strains, I contend that it not only provides fertile ground for the blooming of the utopian genre in African American literary writing, but also helps justify its popularity among African American writers. Through the analysis of three African American utopian writers: Sutton E. Griggs, Pauline Hopkins and W.E.B. Du Bois, I conclude that these writers use utopian texts to express their nation consciousness — and by so doing, challenged the myth of (a) white supremacy; (b) that African Americans are incapable of imagining an ideal world; and (c) carved a way forward for the black community.