Date of Award

May 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Erin N. Winkler

Committee Members

Doreatha Mbalia, George Bargainer, James Conyers, Raquel Farmer-Hinton


Africology, Black Girls, Decolonial Theory, Education, Experience, Narrative


While intra-racial-group comparisons have lead scholars to argue that Black girls are succeeding academically and therefore require less explicit focus in educational research, there is little literature that focuses on the ways that Black girls’ experiences in formal educational spaces shape their emotional wellbeing and sense of intersectional identity—specifically, from their own perspectives (Paul, 2003; Townsend, Thomas, Neilands, and Jackson, 2010). In recognizing this relative invisibility, my research redirects focus to obstacles that typically go relatively unnoticed and unaddressed. Utilizing focus groups and diary/follow-up interviews as methods, I explore the subjective experience of Black girls within the educational context. Placing two theoretical approaches in conversation, my study applies a decolonial Black feminist epistemology (coined here) framework to provide both a narrative description of the experience of Black girls (i.e. the micro level) and a context (i.e. the macro level) of the system functioning to maintain and perpetuate the volatile conditions. I argue that challenges associated with physical appearance, complex interpersonal relationships, and emotional oppression—in the form of microaggression—from both peers and teachers/administration/staff prevents schools from being a safe and beneficial space for Black, middle school girls. While I highlight some of the coping strategies developed to combat the volatility of the space (i.e. the demand for mutual respect, and an increased perception of strength and toughness), I propose the implementation of Black Feminist Pedagogy, an “Ethic of Caring,” and partnerships with Black Girl Empowerment organizations to mediate the negative experiences and create spaces for growth.