Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Kristen Lillvis

Second Advisor

Walter Squire

Third Advisor

Sarah A. Chavez


Motherhood is not a monolithic experience. The intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and class are integral facets that influence and control how one practices maternity, especially in a white hegemonic state. Further, control and choice serve as contributing factors, influencing the level of control women have over entering maternity and how a mother claims ties to her offspring. With these intersectional factors and control measures combined, motherhood is a complicated matter, one that influences how women practice maternity. The practice of motherhood is influenced by race, with black women experiencing a historical struggle in their relationships with motherhood. These difficulties include how one enters maternity, specifically how it assists or detracts from their social standing in societies that disempower women, the ways in which black mothers lay claim to both their bodies and their offspring, and the ways the white hegemony and some black scholars have differently constructed black matriarchies. It is the purpose of this thesis to not only uncover new analyses of four novels depicting black motherhood but also introduce theoretical terms to further uncover the multiplicities of black motherhood. To discuss the different facets of black motherhood and how black women, specifically in texts that occur in different time periods—the future, the colonial era, and both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the United States—practice maternity under circumstances influenced by dominating power structures, my thesis incorporates Octavia E. Butler’s Patternmaster (1976), Butler’s Wild Seed (1980), Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987), and Crystal Wilkinson’s The Birds of Opulence (2015). These texts work together to uncover the central elements of this thesis—choice, ownership of kin, and the shared history of black matriarchies.


Motherhood in literature.

African American families in literature.

African American women in literature.

Mother and child in literature.

Mothers in literature.