Publication Date

Spring 2007


School of Communication



Primary Subject Area

Literature, African


This thesis explores the motif of the African-American woman as the “mule of the world.” The negative connotations of the term originate in slavery and have been influenced by the “cult of true womanhood.” The term itself interrelates to the triple marginalization—that of race, sex, and class—that African American women face. However, black female authors have taken this derogatory meaning and have subsequently given it a positive meaning through the act of Signification, as theorized by Henry Louis Gates. Like their black male predecessors, Maya Angelou (in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings) and Zora Neale Hurston (in Their Eyes Were Watching God) break free from the restrictions of language and create a new meaning.