Date of Award

Summer 8-9-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Elizabeth J. West

Second Advisor

Audrey Goodman

Third Advisor

Carol Marsh-Lockett


In the work of Alice Dunbar-Nelson the city and culture of 19th century New Orleans figures prominently, and is a major character affecting the lives of her protagonists. While race, class, and gender are among the focuses of many scholars the eccentricity and cultural history of the most exotic American city, and its impact on Dunbar-Nelson’s writing is unmistakable. This essay will discuss how the diverse cultural environment of New Orleans in the 19th century allowed Alice Dunbar Nelson to create narratives which allowed her short stories to speak to the shifting identities of women and the social uncertainty of African Americans in the Jim Crow south. A consideration of New Orleans’ cultural history is important when reading Dunbar-Nelson’s work, whose significance has often been disregarded because of what some considered its lack of racial markers.