Date of Award

Spring 3-6-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Dr. Lindsey. Maxwell

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Laura Stengrim

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. Cheryl Jenkins

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Dr. Eura Jung

Committee Member 4 School


Committee Member 5

Dr. David Davies

Committee Member 5 School



The purpose of this study is to conduct a quantitative content analysis to determine if protest songs produced by Black musicians in response to police brutality since the development of #BlackLivesMatter reflect the traditional use of semiotics, narrative language, and collective identity within the verses of lyrics released between 2013-2022.

The findings of the study revealed that there were fewer references to religion than seen in spirituals or during the Civil Rights movement. The police received more attention than other conventional institutions. The lyrics did not describe the daily microaggressions that Black people face, yet there were several references within the lyrics about overt racism. Outrage was the most dominant emotion present compared to the lyrics of the protest music offering a sense of peace to the audience members. Black musicians rarely expressed a call to action towards the injustices that they penned songs about. In addition, they rarely paid homage to the victims of police violence leading to more of an individualized vent in the lyrics of the songs produced from 2013-2022 rather than providing a rallying cry for others to participate as a collective unit to resist the systems that have been set in place to keep Black people oppressed through the fearful tactics of the police.

All in all, although semiotics, narrative language, and emotions may not have been consistent between older and newer forms of protest music, Black musicians who produced music in response to the events that led up to the creation of #BlackLivesMatter and thereafter have a prominent voice that should not be silenced.



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