Writing and oral communication: a study of three African-American families in the United States sunbelt
By: Constance Ann Chapman
Published: 1991
Uploaded: 10/19/2006
Uploaded by: Pocket Masters
Pockets: Gottesman Libraries Archive, Historical Dissertations
Tags: African American children's wr, African American students, African Americans, Blacks, Communication in vocational ed, Education, English language, research, Study and teaching, United States

Constance Ann Chapman
Using the ethnographic tool of participant observation, this study focused on the question: When and what do people write? Subjects for the study were three African-American families residing in the U.S. Sunbelt. The researcher lived with each family for a period of two months. During this time family members were interviewed, field notes taken, and writing, samples collected.
Findings were that adults in the three families used writing for business reasons, e.g., contracts, receipts, seminar notes, minutes of meetings. Another way they used writing was to aid memory--lists, telephone numbers, addresses, notes to family members. Adults seemed to shy away from writing for pleasure or to exchange ideas, mainly because they had had very little success with the medium. One remarked: ˘You canĂt touch people when you write. When you talk to people, you can touch them.÷ Another claimed that she had to wait for gratification after she had written something, gratification that only came after a reader had read what she had written and responded in some way. Family members who seemed to enjoy writing the most were the children. Although a good portion of their writing was for school, they also wrote for pleasure. The younger children especially enjoyed drawing pictures and dictating captions and stories to accompany them.
One of the tasks of this research was to discover a way that might encourage people to use writing more in their everyday lives. When interviewed, most of the adults confessed that they preferred exchanging ideas through conversation. Further investigation revealed that one subject, family history, was very important to them. Each year all three families had reunions during which family history was reviewed and passed along to younger family members. However, except in two of the families, this history was seldom discussed during the remainder of the year because family members seldom gathered together at specific times. Although this is a phenomenon which is not peculiar to the African-American family, it does place a hiatus on the transmission of information highly valued among blacks. Thus, the researcher suggests that one way to encourage people to write is to get them to record their family history so that it can be transmitted from generation to generation.

Sponsor: Jo Anne Kleifgen
Dissertation Committee: Lucy McCormick Calkins
Degree: Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University