Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Mary Zeigler - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Carol Marsh-Lockett

Third Advisor

Dr. George Pullman


John Rickford (1990) states that “80%-90% of African Americans speak some form of Black English”, also known as “Ebonics” or “African American Vernacular English” (AAVE). In 1996, when the Oakland School Board proposed its resolution designating Ebonics as their students’ primary language, many African Americans outright rejected the School Board’s reference and description of their language (Smitherman, 2000, 150). Among them were Baby boomers (1940-1960s), who participated in the debates, and the Generation X’ers, (1960s-1980s), who were informed by the debates. A recent interview of members from both groups show that there is continued skepticism regarding the legitimacy of Ebonics as a language. Their resistance offers much to learn about intergroup relations and conflict. This research explores these components of group identity by examining the in-group language responses to the question of whether Ebonics, AAVE, or Black English is a language.