Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

John Seyfarth


The Black American male has had to face and endure many physical, emotional, and psychological hardships since his ancestors arrived in this country as slaves. One of those hardships has been his constant status as a second-class citizen. Throughout his history in America, the Black male has received unequal pay, unequal justice, unequal medical care, unequal treatment, and unequal education. Yet, despite the circumstances and the odds, there have been Black males who have achieved in many fields. However, even today, in the field of education, achieving academically is not an endeavor most Black males pursue.

This study investigated some factors that can influence some Black males to achieve academically. It was modeled after a 1993 study done by Drs. James McMillan and Daisy Reed, professors at Virginia Commonwealth University. The McMillan & Reed study’s topic was resilience, which is a group of certain individual characteristics that help individuals overcome at risk (of school failure) circumstances. That study and this one were conducted as qualitative research. For this study, 11 Black boys of middle school age and grade were interviewed to ascertain how they generally functioned as students in school and as individuals. Also, they were questioned about their families and friends. Several professional educators were also interviewed to get their perceptions about adolescent Black males’ academic achievement.

The two sets of data, as well as the interviewer tapes and notes were coded, compared, and analyzed. The results were interesting in that this particular group of boys all possessed some resilient traits, they all liked school, and they felt that schooling was important to their futures. These boys were students who had performed well in elementary school but were not presently distinguishing themselves academically. The educators displayed valuable insights and knowledge in recognizing what helps Black males achieve in school. Their experiences in working with at risk students have aligned their thinking with that of the many researchers that have investigated this problem.

This study revealed that the boys who participated collectively possessed several resilient traits which previous research has shown to be related to success in schools. As well, this study highlighted that possession of these traits by these boys was not necessarily a predictor of academic achievement nor was living in at risk circumstances necessarily a predictor of academic failure. The boys in this study enjoyed school, occasionally making good grades in certain subjects, and collectively had very good daily attendance. Also, this sample understood those negative behaviors and influences that prevented other boys from being academically successful but did not apply this understanding to themselves.


Scanned, with permission from the author, from the original print version, which resides in University Archives.


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