Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




The purpose of this thesis was to evaluate a select group of American Negro autobiographies in order to determine their quality as a literary genre. For that purpose the autobiographies from the fields of race leadership, writing, and entertainment were selected for evaluation.

In the field of race leadership the following autobiographies were analyzed: Father Henson, by Josiah Henson; The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass; Up From Slavery, by Booker T. Washington; and Dusk of Dawn, by W. E. B. DuBois.

In the field of writing the autobiographies analyzed were: Along This Way, by James Weldon Johnson; A Long Way From Home, by Claude McKay; The Big Sea, by Langston Hughes; and Black Boy, by Richard Wright.

In the field of entertainment the autobiographies analyzed were: His Eye is on the Sparrow, by Ethel Waters; and My Lord, What a Morning, by Marian Anderson.

Other contemporary autobiographies were reviewed but not analyzed. They are: Notes of a Native Jon and Nobody Knows My Name, by James Baldwin; Yes I Can, by Sammy Davis, Jr.; Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison; and Manchild in the Promised Land, by Claude Brown.

The author of this thesis assumed that the better educated Negro would write a biography superior in quality to one written by a less educated Negro. After research, he found that the original assumption was unwarranted.

Conclusions: The best autobiographies were those written by the persons who made an honest selection and analysis of the events that shaped their lives. Further, all the autobiographers selected for this thesis contributed in some way to the welfare of their race and country. Finally, the group of American Negro autobiographies selected was important in that it chronicled the history of the United States from 1850-1950 from the point of view of the American Negro.