Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts

Degree Name

Composition, Rhetoric, and Digital Media

First Advisor

Molly Scanlon, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Juliette Kitchens, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Melissa Bianchi, Ph.D.


content analysis, visual rhetoric, professional black women, visual culture, success, identity, media agenda, contemporary American society, magazine covers


Black women in the United States have been arguably the most underrepresented, stereotyped, and hypersexualized groups in society; their contributions in the workplace often reduced in significance. Similarly, the perceived values of the white majority have historically dictated the images of minorities in the media. In their research on visual culture, Keifer-Boyd, Amburgy & Knight (2007) suggest that those with social, political, and economic power define how groups without power are represented and stereotyped, illuminating the privileges of having visible positive portrayals. As contemporary American society shifts towards greater inclusion and participation from black women, the media is encouraged to bring messages depicting diverse professionals to the forefront. Over the last 100 years, magazine covers in particular have grown to become one of the few platforms that explicitly feature images of society’s successful people, with certain magazines circulating to millions each year and influencing the decisions of a generation; a time-capsule of American culture. This current inquiry examines the potentially stereotypical trends created over the past seven years when popular magazine outlets engage their visual power in depicting black women. Most significantly, this study quantifies the visual culture portrayed by black women featured on the covers of ten highly circulated culture-shaping magazines through a content analysis: a visual methodology informed by qualitative coding of what it means to be stereotyped, limited, and underrepresented. The result of this research, while filling the gap of feminist visual rhetoric studies on black women in a media-obsessed and celebrity centered society, is the call for revision of these limited roles in future media productions.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.