DeShon Brooks


Education: Bachelor of Arts in sociology (December 2020)

McNair Project: A Historical Analysis of Middle Class African American Language Patterns and Identity Creation in the Midwest (Completed Using the Brown vs. Board of Education Oral Archives) (2020)

Mentor: Mary Kohn, Ph.D.

Research on African American Language’s connection to identity creation has generally been centered around African American youths or working class of these same African American. The language patterns of middle class people in this country, seldom are studied. Geographically, studies tended to focus more on urban hubs along the coast, ignoring the Midwest. My research on middle class African Americans in the Midwest diversifies research on AAL and disrupts the narrative of urban youth identity being more core to the African American experience than other identities. This research is a case study on the interviews of two individuals from the archives of the Brown v. Board of Education case. The study looks at language patterns in their dialogue and examines how language choices contributed to their social identities. My methods for accomplishing this involve utilizing the Dialect Density Measure to code for syntactical features, phonological features, and organize the transcript by topic. My results found that neither individual’s dialogue utilizes many syntactic features. More focus was on phonological features in their language. This finding was consistent with findings from previous literature. Their topic choices show connections to their identities through their emotional responses to them. This research could charter new ground in linguistic research by providing new linguistic knowledge about understudied areas and people in the Midwest. Secondly, by finding new knowledge in various geographical locations, we can expand on studies done on the effects of language in society and compare them to other societies.