Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Jeria, Jorge

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education


African American women--Education; Adult education of women--United States; African American women--Social conditions--United States


This is a study of 46 African-American women who, as returning adult learners, perceived their voices in the classroom as being silenced. This silencing—a hegemonic culture consciously or unconsciously excluding the opinions, thoughts, and culture of African-American women—has had a long-term negative impact on these specific women's lives (i.e., low self-esteem). Although this study is limited to an exploration of women in education, the problem examined in the research is deeply rooted in all of the major institutions in society (i.e., family, church, and government). While the education experience does not create the problem, it does nurture the seeds of silencing that have been planted in much earlier classroom activities. The participants in this study uncovered, identified, described, and analyzed three of the major barriers that contributed to the silencing of their voices. The barriers included power, powerlessness, privilege, and oppression—based on the criteria of class, race, and gender. The women articulated a sense of fear and low self-esteem, resulting in diminished classroom participation and, ultimately, dropping out of college to keep attention from perceived inadequacies. The need for a research instrument that allowed for a direct investigation and description of the silencing experienced by the African-American women studied was the rationale for selecting a narrative explanatory qualitative inquiry methodology. The common themes in this research were taken from data collected through open forums, research papers, 40 personal interviews (8 of the 46 women were interviewed five times), and my personal autobiography. The results of this research provide an impetus for adult educators to influence the rethinking and redesigning of the classroom culture so that it is conducive to the retention of African-American women. The primary limitation of this research is its focus on participants' perceptions of silencing in the classroom. Consequently, it can only provide a baseline for the adult education research needed to design theoretical and practical paradigms. Two areas for future research are designing curricula that include the experiences of African-American women in the classroom and creating institutional support services that help African-American women to safeguard themselves against the interlocking systems that result in their developing a sense of being silenced in education classrooms.


Includes bibliographical references (pages 185-193)


xxii, 211 pages




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