Challenges in leadership that beset black principals in predominantly white school communities

Michelle Renee Wiley, University of Pennsylvania


Much of the research on African American educational leaders has focused on the insurmountable odds they face in large, segregated, urban, and underfunded schools where there are high volumes of student underachievement. Increasingly, however, black administrators are found in rural and suburban areas that represent a range of ethnically diverse communities with which they may share little in racial and political history and background experiences. This qualitative study gathered information about the experiences of black principals who work in predominantly white school communities. It examined the nature of black principals’ experiences in a society in which race continues to occupy a significant place, and it highlighted the challenges they face in establishing trusting relationships with members of their school communities. Their reasons for choosing these sites vary, as do their experiences in them. Participants for this study included 12 African American principals who work or have worked in local school communities where the parents, faculty, and students are predominantly white. The research methodology for the study included in-depth, critical and reflective interviews that were conducted with male or female principals, as well as the examination of their archival data. Findings suggest that racism creates barriers that hinder the development of trusting relationships between African American principals and their local white communities. The data suggest that they are vulnerable to feelings of alienation and rejection. This study contributes to theories of educational leadership as well as implications for continued advocacy and acceptance of African American leadership in ethnically diverse school communities.

Subject Area

African American Studies|Black studies|Educational leadership

Recommended Citation

Wiley, Michelle Renee, "Challenges in leadership that beset black principals in predominantly white school communities" (2016). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI10241754.