Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Communication and Information

Major Professor

Bharat Mehra

Committee Members

Barbara Thayer-Bacon, Kimberly Douglass, Lori Amber Roessner


This study chronicles the journey of uncovering a community-based information collective. In 1963, a group of African-American mothers seeking equity of access, voiced to city officials the need for their neighborhood to have a library. One speaker asserted that the lack of access to a library center would hinder community education. This type of engagement provides a lens into the Black feminist activist tradition (Collins, 1998, 2000). The campaign of these women exemplifies what Belenky, Bond, & Weinstock (1999) call the tradition that has no name. This research extends the event by examining the Chicago Public Housing communities they inhabit, as an information nexus. The research addresses the questions: How did African-American activist-mothers residing in Douglass area Chicago public housing build information networks to inform activism? and How does the metaphor of voice support activities in community building? This select historical case study, explores the metaphor of voice in the Black feminist tradition (Collins, 1998, 2000) by uncovering information space(s) and providing context to their collective activism. The theoretical lens is informed by intersections of information and community, social justice, and race and gender. Contextually, the study examines mothers living in Harold L. Ickes Homes and Dearborn Homes Public Housing communities in 1955-1970. The unique presence of Henry Booth settlement house in the public housing communities allow for the discovery of archival data and centralizes community activism. Borrowing from the constant-comparative grounded theory approach (Charmaz, 2011; Corbin & Strass, 1998), uncovering collective voice involved an iterative process of deconstructing data through the development of a three-phase, eight-step evidence inquiry and analysis process. Through rigorous analysis, the formulation of the Black Feminist Information Community(BFIC) model emerged with five meta-level themes (Place/Space, Voice, Information, Belief System, and Self and Community Mobilization). The meta-level themes reflect the importance of collectivism, engagement, and voice in community-based activism. The study significance reflects the recognition of the voice of the researcher and the activist-mothers under study. The BFIC model contributes to the information science theoretical landscape by offering a bottom-up view of information space and demonstrating the representation of information in marginalized communities.

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