From mammies, maids and martyrs to agents, activists and authors: Lived experiences of black women in a transforming academy in the United States and South Africa

Joi Denise Lewis, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

This dissertation is a qualitative study about the lived experiences of senior Black women in the academy, in the US and South Africa. My primary goal was to examine Black women's experiences specifically in the context of the historical stereotypes of mammies, maids, and martyrs, and analyze the ways in which some of the roles played by Black women may be consistent with those stereotypes or may serve to resist them. The participants' experiences were generally consistent both with the stereotypical roles of mammies, maids, and martyrs and the more liberated roles of agent, activist, and author. Although many of the women were resistant to the idea that they were mammies, maids, or martyrs, as our conversation ensued, the categories were useful to the women in organizing their thoughts.^ This dissertation also examines how senior Black women faculty/administrators understand their role in the racial diversification of the academy with respect to institutional climate, policies and practices. I situated my analysis of the participant's experiences in the context of raced and gendered policies and practices in education, with a particular focus on institutional transformation in higher education as it was influenced by two resistance movements: the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa.^ The participant narratives and analysis of the results provide a complicated and nuanced understanding about barriers to and opportunities for transformation in the academy. I learned that despite the fact that more people of color attend historically white institutions now than they did in the past, the academy has not been significantly transformed. Many participants shared stories of isolation and of low recruitment and retention of Black faculty and senior administrators. Historically exclusive, racist and patriarchal education system in both the U.S. and South Africa provide a framework for analyzing some of the reasons why these participants were rarely successful in playing a significant role in transforming the academy.^

Subject Area

Black Studies|Women's Studies|Education, Administration|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Joi Denise Lewis, "From mammies, maids and martyrs to agents, activists and authors: Lived experiences of black women in a transforming academy in the United States and South Africa" (January 1, 2007). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI3255883.
http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI3255883

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