Major Department



College of Liberal Arts & Sciences


BA (Bachelor of Arts)

Session and Year of Graduation

Spring 2019

Honors Major Advisor

Kathleen Diffley

Thesis Mentor

Amy Shoultz, Bluford Adams


This project examines racial representation in canonical texts frequently taught in the secondary English Language Arts classroom. Every year, the population of students in the American public school system becomes increasingly more racially diverse while the demographics of the teaching population and the literature within classrooms remain the same. As the student population continues to change, what type of literature and curriculum must educators teach in order to represent students’ diverse identities and encourage respect and responsiveness towards other cultures? As an Asian-American pre-service teacher, I first discuss the current state of American public school education in this project and then proceed to include two case studies. This section exists to examine and discuss two canonical and commonly used “racially diverse” texts in the English Language Arts classroom. Through examining Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (1982) for aspects of racial representation, this project discusses how these texts portray people of color and their individual experiences. Moreover, this project considers whether or not the characters of color are complex, humanized, empowered, and are portrayed beyond negative racial stereotypes. I argue that all educators should not only teach diverse literature in the classroom, but should also seek to provide literature which features positive racial representation within its narratives. While Lee’s novel perpetuates negative stereotypes that dehumanize black characters, Walker’s novel instead features black characters with agency and the capacity to succeed. All students, regardless of identity, have the opportunity to learn from racially diverse literature, experience representation, and develop empathy. At its conclusion, this project features curriculum that seeks to emphasize cultural competency in the classroom. Ranging from reading techniques to writing prompts and practices to enhance racial awareness, this project provides readers and educators with techniques for developing a respectful and inclusive class.


English, Education, Secondary Education, Race, Representation, Multicultural Literature

Total Pages

51 pages


Copyright © 2019 Tiphany Phan