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


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

K.C. Nat Turner

Second Advisor

Maria Jose Botelho

Third Advisor

Amanda Walker Johnson

Subject Categories

Language and Literacy Education


Given the current racially charged climate around the world, but more specifically in the US and on college campuses, we as instructors of undergraduates are vastly underserving our future generations by avoiding tough questions in the classroom surrounding race. Without the proper language and space to discuss issues surrounding race, students are left behind without the words to express how they are thinking, feeling, and dreaming. The purpose of this qualitative critical ethnographic study through a Critical Race Theory (CRT) framework is to examine the ability of humanizing and culturally sustaining pedagogies to elicit racial literacy in three White undergraduate students enrolled in a general education course at a PWI. This project is a call to teach our students a new literacy—racial literacy—and provide pedagogues the tools and pathways for achieving this goal. Racial literacy is a literacy that will help them put words to feelings and experiences they’ve had but not able to articulate. This study offers insight of the positive impacts that humanizing and culturally sustaining pedagogies had on how racial literacy was learned and/or taught. The tools used to implement an ontological shift with the White student participants include: the importance of reflexivity for both the teachers and students, concrete connections between the content and theory being presented to the reality of the students, fostering pluralisms through dialogue, counternarratives and creating a Community of Practice (Wenger, 1999), and creating different ways of expression for students to express their thoughts and feelings. By implementing these tools, the results of this study concluded that all of the participants made movement toward a deeper understanding of racial literacy, albeit at different depths.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.