A study of black women's experiences related to racism and sexism in school
Ward, Holly Marie
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Through a theoretical lens of Black Feminist Epistemology, this bounded qualitative interview study examines the question, “How do Black women across three generations view racism and sexism in the context of their educational experiences?” Their narratives illustrate that integration of schools was not a panacea for all African Americans and that struggles for educational opportunities persist. Primary data are derived from semi-structured and open-ended interviews conducted in a conversational manner, consistent with principles of feminist interviewing. Additional data include multiple interviews, field notes, photographs, and additional relevant artifacts. Nine women shared stories of educational experiences gained through school, work, family, community, church, and everyday occurrences. The analysis makes visible their experiences of racism and sexism. Findings indicate that racism was present for all participants, but they did not feel that racism prevented them from having successful lives. Sexism was also present, but was overshadowed by participants’ experiences of racism. Participants’ negative experiences were valued for contributing to their growth and identities. The core category of the findings was “Strong Women.” The term, “strong women,” denotes independent, determined, supportive, and successful women. The women described confidence, sisterhood, learning through struggle, and their faith in God as important to their survival as Black women. Participants received support in their lives through the communities of strong women that deeply valued education. They perceived that integration had both positive and negative influence on their lives and resulted in loss of community, described teacher expectations for achievement of Black students and a general decline in the quality of education across the three generations of participants.