Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Jennifer Esposito, Ph.D. - Chair

Second Advisor

Jonathan Gayles, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Richard Lakes, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Carlos R. McCray, Ed.D.


The purpose of this ethnographic study was to explore how youth consumption of rap music informed their ideas of gender, race, sexuality, and education at a local community center in Atlanta, Georgia. The participants in the study were comprised of three male and six female Black students from working class families, ranging in age from 13–17 years old. The data collection process included 60 formal interviews, 55 informal interviews, 27 focus group interviews, 103 participant observations, and document analyses of media materials. Atlas.ti: The Knowledge Workbench (2003) assisted with the organizing, coding, categorizing, and interpreting of the vast amount of data. Findings from the study revealed four major themes: (a) youth’s engagement with rap music fostered essentialized notions of Blackness, (b) teens believed that Blacks were intellectually inferior, (c) youth perceived their classroom teachers as racist and (d) youth responded to their teacher’s perceived racism by disassociating themselves from youth they believed to be academically inferior. The findings of this study addressed the need for candid dialogues about race in the classroom and educational policy that incorporates critical media literacy.