Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Dr. Katherine Hankins

Second Advisor

Dr. Richard Milligan

Third Advisor

Dr. Sarita Davis


This research explores the geographic concept of place and its relationship to identity in contemporary poetry performances. Identity is the most prominent issue of New World African folklore studies, stemming from problems with race, nationhood, and colonial influences. Moreover, many scholars recognize that there is significantly less discernible African retention in African American folklore compared to other New World African folklore. Thus, this research examines contemporary African American storytelling through observing performances of poetry, a notable representation of folklore, to investigate whether African memory has been mobilized in today’s African American folklore. The qualitative method of nonparticipant observation was used to collect data, which included 25 poetry performances by African American poets and artists. This contemporary form of storytelling was coded, analyzed, and then compared to traditional African storytelling traits. Conclusions from this research indicate parallels between storytelling traits observed in contemporary African American poetry and traits that historically have been demonstrated in African storytelling.