Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

William F. Pinar


This ethnographic study of Black community college students, in a predominantly white community college, took place over a three-year period and focused on two groups. One group, the spades players, neglected their studies in favor of the card game spades, which they made the central activity of their family-like collective in the student commons. The other group, Black senators in the Student Government Association, were academic achievers who performed service to the college. By immersion into both cultures, the researcher gained the confidence of individual students in both groups, interviewed them in various settings, and looked for reasons behind the academic failures and successes of the respective groups. The spades players reproduced on campus a cultural activity learned at home that provided support, stimulation, and solidarity within the indifferent institutional environment. Their enthusiastic, often noisy, cultural expressions at the spades game contrasted with their reticence and white institution, foregoing exclusively Black associations on campus. While they promoted Black awareness activities, their campus associations were cross-cultural. The spades players demonstrated that Black students will respond to institutional indifference with the creation of a subculture which they feel provides a strategy for survival, though it is ultimately detrimental to their academic achievement. The senators demonstrated that Black students do not need to forfeit their racial solidarity and cultural expressions to achieve academically. While most of the spades players dropped out of school virtually unnoticed by the institution, possibilities for retaining at-risk students emerged in this study. Community colleges should provide aggressive intervention for at-risk minority students, since the students are often unaware that they need help or are reluctant to seek it. Academic intervention and mentoring by caring Black professionals is needed in a friendly environment where the students' own Black cultural interests are addressed through curriculum and student life.