There is ample research on the effects of racism on Black people; however, less focus has been placed on struggles due to the psychological injury caused by internalized racism (IR). Strategies to alleviate symptoms related to IR are examined through the lens of art and the literature associated with IR. This dissertation explores (a) how IR is related to emotions and psychological processes, (b) how IR is expressed in art created by Black artists, and (c) implications for integration of art into psychological interventions targeting IR. Six artists were identified for the dissertation and nine works of art were selected. Each artist was represented with either one or two works of art. The analysis of the artwork included a 4-stage approach applied to each of the nine paintings: (a) general characteristics, description of the work and racially themed content; (b) themes that strongly reflect vital issues found in the literature of IR depicted in the work; (c) integrative analysis, and (d) implications for healing and interventions. Key findings included the observation that feelings of shame and anxiety/fear were found in six out of the nine artworks, suggesting the prominence of these emotional experiences concerning IR. Potentially healing themes for Black people with IR were identified and included increased self-esteem, resistance against oppressive systems, self-agency, access to an authentic voice, and racial pride. All artworks were found to have the potential to bring increased awareness to the experience of IR by addressing themes related to racism, colorism, exploitation, and dehumanization.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Racism -- Psychological aspects; Blacks -- Race identity; Artists, Black -- Psychology

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Shelly P. Harrell

Included in

Psychology Commons