Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership, Research and Counseling

Document Type



"Acting White" (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986) is a common term among researchers who study academic achievement and racial identity among minority students which signifies the tension some academically successful minority students experience as they excel in school. Black students who contend with such tension may be teased, alienated, or rejected by their peers who view academic achievement as characteristic of White people. In order to avoid the accusation of "acting White," many Black students underachieve, conceal their academic talents, or make no efforts to pursue academic goals. For Black female high-achieving students, "acting White" is laden with gender-specific strategies of "silence" to cope with the tension they experience (Fordham, 1993). This tension involves their attempt to dissociate from the stereotypical description of "loudness" for Black females. These students often suffer from a lack of socialization with their peers due to their choice of an academic identity while forsaking a positive racial identity. Such students are isolated from their Black peers, maintain low profiles, and remain detached from the social scene at school. The primary purpose of the present study is to examine the experiences of successful Black female students. Conducting such research is significant because many other studies on Black female students have focused on their deficits rather than success. Data collection for the study occurred through two phases. For Phase I, potential participants were given the Racial Identity Attitude Scale (RIAS-B) (McDermott & Spencer, 1996) to measure their level of racial identification. School records were analyzed to confirm their grade point averages. The six girls with the most positive outliers - the highest RIAS-B scores and the highest grade point averages, were invited to participate in Phase II. Phase II utilized ethnographic methodologies to investigate the participants' experiences at school, home, and in the community. Data collection techniques included document analysis, shadowing, participant-observation, semi-structured interviews, and focus groups. Results were coded to identify commonalities of the participants' experiences, and to distinguish characteristics that enable their success. This study shows how, theoretically, Black female students educated in an urban middle school "loudly" proclaim pride in their academic accomplishments and racial identity.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Dianne L. Taylor



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