First Advisor

William Greenfield

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Administration


Educational Leadership and Policy




African American leadership, African American women



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 235 pages)


The purpose of this qualitative study was to learn more about leadership from the perspectives, norms, and values of a selected group of African American women leaders. I sought to develop a more inclusive view of the realities of leadership, and a better understanding of the impact of the interlocking status of race, gender, and social class on the practice, pursuit, and perceptions of leadership by these women.

This study is grounded in a Black women's standpoint, and places Black women's experiences at the center of analysis. In answer to the question "How do we know the world?," the standpoint suggests that Black women know the world as survivors and not as victims, as mothers, and as "other mothers." In answer to the question "What is the nature of reality?," Black women's standpoint embraces a reality that is defined by complexity and contradiction, by an acknowledgment that racism is a constant that must not become an excuse for giving in or giving up: that reality is self, internally defined. In answer to the question "How do Black women gain knowledge about the world?," the standpoint suggests that knowledge is gained through real life experience, by paying attention to the past and to the present, to the margins and to the center, to the pieces and to the whole, and by listening and responding to our own and each other's authentic voices (Collins, 1990).

Of the seven women selected for the study, four are positional leaders: a high school principal, a senior level community college administrator, a state legislator, and the executive director of a large philanthropic foundation. Also participating were three non-positional leaders who work within their communities in different roles described in the study. I interviewed each respondent using a modified open interview schedule. Interviews lasted between one-and-a-half and three-and-a-half hours.

Common themes emerging from the interviews included: (a) development of psychological and emotional resilience, (b) experiences of racism and sexism, (c) cultivation of a spiritual or religious life, (d) construction of a positive sense of self, and (e) a construct of connected leadership.


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© 1996 by Gloria Murphy Gostnell

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