Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Mass Communications

First Advisor

Michael Castro

Second Advisor

Carolyn Scott

Third Advisor

Katherine Johnson


This document will demonstrate the need for African-American authors to define the essential and fundamental characteristics, disposition and purpose of the literary heroes of African Americans by way of an analysis of the novel, Cowboy, the Saga of Jedediah West, which I wrote between 1995 and 1998. The creation of a distinct literary heroic tradition for African Americans is necessary, I contend, because the culture virtually has been deprived and devoid of literary, imaginary heroes. Because people of every culture require heroes for healthy evolution, African Americans have weighted their heroic tradition with living heroes exclusively who are accepted by the people as heroic and whose lives are worth honoring and emulating, which is expected but leave the culture incomplete.

The literary heroic tradition, I'll demonstrate, fell prey to racialist propaganda that began with the introduction of slavery into the United States. The propaganda arose from a campaign to manufacture an image of blacks as inferior and suitable for slavery. This propaganda campaign became so successful because blacks during slavery had no economic or legal means to respond. As a result, what I'll demonstrate literally was a propaganda war· cemented abhorrent images of black people in the minds of Americans, an image that outlived slavery and supported slavery's byproduct, white supremacy. The propaganda war· not only taught whites to despise blacks, it taught blacks to despise being black.

Reversing this byproduct is the foundation for the need of a literary heroic tradition for African Americans. The image that blacks have of themselves turns out to be more destructive to the black community than racism because the lack of a good cultural self-image destroys the spirit, enthusiasm and ambition of the group.

For any culture, a strong folk hero or mythic hero tradition is an integral part of building the self-in1age of its people. Therefore, to reverse the effects of the propaganda, the African-American community must first develop and nurture the ingredients that fortified other cultures. In the context of the propaganda war, the most valuable tool is a healthy and vigorous literary heroic tradition. While living-legend heroes are good for the culture, they symbolize and demonstrate who we are. Literary heroes, on the other hand, are who we want to be and how we want to see ourselves.

Cowboy Jed, the hero of the novel, Cowboy, is such a literary hero. He fits into the structure of what makes a classic hero, what would make an American hero, and especial ly, what would make an African-American hero.