Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Janet Gabler-Hover - Chair

Second Advisor

Carol P. Marsh-Lockett

Third Advisor

Elizabeth West


I argue that William Wells Brown’s narrative, Clotel, is informed by the white racism inherent in Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia and reveals evidence of the trauma it has fostered transgenerationally. By examining Toni Morrison’s Beloved, I assert that the trauma of slavery is transmitted transgenerationally in the black female body. I develop my argument using trauma theory, postulated through the work of Cathy Caruth, Dori Laub, Diana Miles, Abraham and Maria Torok, and William Cross. My purpose is to reveal the relevance and lasting significance of the legacy of slavery in contemporary American society. Thomas Jefferson’s white supremacist ideas, along with the system of slavery which nurtured them, continue to plague contemporary American thought and continue to shape African American female identity.