Reflections of African American CEOs of Community Colleges: Racial Identity and Educational Experiences in Segregated and Integrated Schools

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Dorothy Ettling


Anita Anderson


Tarcisio Beal


Sandra M. Mayo


The intent of this qualitative study is to analyze the experiences of 26 African American Chief Executive Officers of community colleges in the United States. Through historical study and the subjects' own words, the study paints a vivid portrait of racism, personal struggle and ultimate triumph of both the CEOs, and African Americans collectively. Principal topics include Supreme Court decisions based on racial issues, the influences of Black leaders such as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B Du Bois, and the CEOs' experiences while attending integrated and segregated schools. Other crucial areas discussed are the impact of the Civil Rights Movement, and the use of Critical Race Theory as a research methodology. William Cross’ Theory of Nigrescence contributes to further analysis of the issues by the application of Cross’ theory to the CEOs’ experiences of racial identity. Based on data collected through questionnaires, in-depth interviews, and personal artifacts, seven themes emerged. These themes indicate that the participants’ personal and professional achievement was due to perseverance, preparedness, strong support systems, connection to family and the recognition of the need to “reclaim one’s cultural center” by acknowledging ancestors, ethnicity, and uniqueness. The study leads us to conclude that both segregation and integration were key influences that provided many strong, positive and negative life experiences for the CEOs. Yet, the blending of those experiences served as a catalyst that sparked their aspirations, motivation, and ultimately, the fulfillment of their academic and professional success.

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