Starting Young: Emergent Black Masculinity and Early Literacy

by Alma Stevenson; Sabrina Ross

Apr 1, 2015

With the goal of understanding and improving Black male literacy to help Black males thrive and excel, this study explores masculine practices of literacy in a group of first and second grade students. The authors found that the young Black males demonstrated an understanding of linguistic complexities in both literary texts and social interactions. Students engaged in multiple expressions of Black masculine literacy. While all of these expressions served a functional purpose, only some of the expressions of Black masculine literacy, especially expressions of alternative masculinities that did not conform to social norms, were linked to academic achievement.

  • The Black students exhibited both hegemonic masculinity, such as aggressive and competitive behavior, and alternative masculinities that did not conform to social norms.
  • Students in this study demonstrated mastery in Black masculine literacy even though a number of them were labeled as reading below grade level.
  • Fluency in literacy exhibited by the males in this study often did not translate into success in the formal academic environment.
  • Young African American males need opportunities to cultivate hegemonic expressions of Black masculine literacy for success in informal contexts with other African American males.
  • Young African American males need opportunities to cultivate alternative expressions of Black masculine literacy for success in formal educational contexts.