University of Leicester
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The Anonymity of African American Serial Killers: From Slavery to Prisons, A Continuum of Negative Imagery

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posted on 2011-12-14, 12:25 authored by Allan LeRoy Branson
Race-based perceptions regarding African American males have created the belief that, although these men are frequently associated with crime, they do not engage in serial murder. That conviction reflects a cultural bias whereby white male serial murderers arguably have been given an iconic status within popular culture, and the “anti-hero” traits accorded them are denied to their African-American counterparts, rendering the latter invisible. A combination of critical discourse analysis, case studies, and quantitative analysis of social artefacts provide support for this thesis. An overview of the significant impact of slavery, the creation of media imagery regarding criminality from the late nineteenth century to the present, and the overrepresentation of African Americans in the penal system provide a framework to examine how racism in the U.S. has evolved, how multiple forms of popular media have shaped perceptions of both blacks and serial murderers, and how the FBI’s criminal profiling matrix developed in accord with these cognitive patterns. All combine to create a dangerous delusion that blinds law enforcement to possible perpetrators of serial murder. Significantly, the case of the D.C. Snipers and other black serial killers are examined to demonstrate the biases inherent in social and cultural attitudes to such crimes and the consequences for the continuing anonymity of black serial murderers.



Jewkes, Yvonne; Hodgkinson, Sarah

Date of award


Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD


Some images (pp. 266, 267, 271, 272, 275) in the electronic version of this thesis differ to those used in the paper copy due to copyright restrictions.



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