Leadership Studies Ed.D. Dissertations


African American Leadership Experiences in Education Organizing For School Reform

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Mark Earley

Second Advisor

William Morrison

Third Advisor

Judy Alston (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Joyce Litten (Committee Member)


The purpose of this study is to explore the role of race in the implementation of education reform through organizing strategies. This study examines the experiences of nine African American community leaders from Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit in their endeavors to lead education reform. More specifically, this work examines the tradition of racial solidarity as an organizing strategy for change in the African American community. Three research questions guided this study: To what extent does race impact African American leaders' implementation of education organizing? What influence does intragroup vs. intergroup ties have on leaders in education organizing efforts? To what extent do African American community leaders rely on calls for racial solidarity in their efforts to transform schools? A phenomenological approach was used to answer this study's research questions. Phenomenology describes the meaning of a group of individuals lived experiences of a concept or phenomenon. Using a phenomenological lens, I analyzed individual experiences to uncover the universal essence of how African American community leaders understand and experience education organizing. During my conversations with leaders, I learned that race: (a) affirmed many leaders ability to lead within their communities (b) was essential to the understanding of how to navigate school bureaucracy and empathize with the experiences of their constituents (c) framed the type of educational issues respondents' communities face and (d) influenced how communities are engaged in the educational change process.