Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Adai Tefera

Second Advisor

Dr. Bill Muth

Third Advisor

Dr. Maike Philipsen

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Bedelia Richards


As recent research finally starts to recognize colorism, a form of discrimination where light skin is valued over dark skin within an ethnic group, as a legitimate form of discrimination in the Black community, research on colorism in higher education still wanes. A limited amount of scholarship focuses on the manifestation of colorism in education and even less research examines the implications of complexion on Black college students and their intersectional identities. As empirical studies describe how complexion often denotes institutional degradation for dark-skinned Black students in K-12 and beyond -- from teacher perceptions, to the school-to-prison pipeline, to social dynamics with peers and more, this study privileges the voices of these marginalized students. This qualitative study uses phenomenology to detail the experiences of dark-skinned Black college students at a PWI (predominately white institution) to illustrate their lived experiences, the often intricate relationships between dark skin and intersectional identities like gender and ethnicity, and the unique phenomenon of being dark-skinned on campus. This work aims to complicate, adding rigorous research and thick qualitative description to burgeoning scholarship on colorism in education.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission