Date of Completion

January 1980


Education, Secondary




The purpose of this study was to measure the effect of a four month experience with Black literature on attitudes of White suburban adolescents toward Blacks. The sample, consisting of 435 pupils (215 female, 220 male) was selected from ninth grade students attending six suburban schools in communities surrounding a northern city.^ An instrument, Multifactor Racial Attitude Inventory, introduced as a pretest and posttest to assess racial attitudes, and a Black Literature Package, compiled by the author, was introduced as the study treatment. External validity was controlled by The Solomon Four-Group design. The experimental groups took the pretest and became involved with the Black Literature Package during the four month period. These groups read the Black literature selections after taking the pretest and produced written personalized reactions to these readings during the treatment. Following the treatment, a posttest was administered. The control groups took the pretests and posttests specified by the research design but were not exposed to the treatment. Sex, reading comprehension and IQ were studied as potential sources of confounding influence on racial attitude.^ The study posed several questions concerning the impact of the Black Literature Package on racial attitudes of these students and dealt with the question of whether or not differences in attitude depend on individual differences in sex, reading comprehension and IQ. When racial attitude is thought of as a multifactor construct, Hypothesis One was rejected for two subscales, Gradualism and Ease in Interracial Contacts and Hypothesis Six was rejected for one subscale, Private Rights. If one views racial attitude as a single global dimension, all null hypotheses under investigation would be retained. The findings previously stated when racial attitude is looked upon as a psychological domain having many components, suggest that some of these components are susceptible to relatively short term change.^ The results of the study provided evidence for the necessity of strengthening the Multifactor Racial Attitude Inventory for measuring attitudinal change in adolescents as well as the desirability of supplementing such quantitative measures by more subjective kinds of response such as written personal reactions. An inspection of the students' written responses disclosed clear, positive attitudinal change in a number of cases. Although difficult to quantify, these writings reflected positive attitudes toward characters in the literary selections and were considered by this researcher to be an important experimental outcome.^ A previous study by Page (1974) investigated the extent to which racial attitudes of eleventh grade students change after reading Black literature. His findings suggested that Black literature read by students at that grade level for five weeks independent of or in conjunction with the teacher did not transform negative attitudes into positive attitudes.^ A later study sought to determine the influences of literature read since grade six on racial attitudes (Culp, 1976). The findings in this case revealed that the majority of students had been influenced to some extent in their attitudes, values, and behavior by reading literature. The effects of reading literary works by Black and White American writers on attitudes of students toward Black literature was assessed by Cooke (1971). Her findings indicated a significant improvement in Black literature after students had read works by both Black and White Americans.^ Based on the literature review, one would expect racial attitude, in general, to be resistant to short term effects. The present study, while supporting this view along those dimensions of racial attitude, suggest that, particularly in the case of Gradualism and Ease in Interracial Contacts, short term treatment may produce significant change. ^