Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in English



First Advisor

Patrick Alexander

Second Advisor

Leigh Anne Duck

Third Advisor

Jay Watson

Relational Format



This dissertation investigates a post-Civil Rights-era literary history of fugitive slave figures and their fugitive acts amid temporal and spatial confinement as constituting a tradition of contemporary African American migration narratives. The point of departure for this project is the Prologue of Ralph Ellison’s novel, Invisible Man, where the unnamed Black narrator endures a forced migration to New York, but also invites readers to witness his performance of hibernation in an underground space in a building reserved for white tenants. On the one hand, the low, claustrophobic, and dark space of the narrator’s basement signifies Black migrants’ historical subjection to subordinate social, economic, and political statuses in northern metropolitan cities. However, Ellison’s narrator’s covert resistance to that white supremacist system from within the basement—his stealing of electricity from the Monopolated Light and Power Company to light his room in which he lives rent-free—and his production of African American vernacular culture are exemplary fugitive acts. “Fugitivity, Confinement, and the Afterlife of Slavery in Contemporary African American Migration Narratives” responds to the following question in light of African American literature shaped by Ellison’s migration narrative but published decades later: In what ways do post-Civil Rights-era Black migrants produce fugitive spaces within systems of neo-slavery defined by white supremacy?

Available for download on Thursday, August 15, 2024