Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Education and Human Services


Counseling and Educational Leadership

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Amanda L. Baden

Committee Member

Muninder K. Ahluwalia

Committee Member

W. Matthew Shurts

Committee Member

Kathryn Herr


Success in the US has been defined in White American terms (Katz 1985; Mangino, 2014), which may not reflect the values of African American women. The goal of this study was to provide practitioners (e.g., counselors, educators, researchers) with a perspective of African American women from their standpoint. African American women who were raised by female heads of households in under-resourced communities were given the opportunity to name, define, and describe their own successes. Using a phenomenological qualitative interview method of inquiry, a semi-structured interview was used to gain a more in-depth understanding of participants’ lived experiences and how they have been able to experience success in their lives. This qualitative phenomenological dissertation was framed using Feminist Standpoint Theory (FST) (Harding, 2006; Hill Collins, 1997) and Blackness Theory (Cross & Strauss, 1998). A total of 13 participants were interviewed for this study. Findings suggested that although some White American measures of success (e.g., educational attainment) resonated with participants, success was largely framed in the context of relationships. Participants not only identified maintaining healthy relationships as leading to success but also attributed their successes to their relationships. Furthermore, context (i.e., shared group experience, impact of oppression) should be addressed to clearly understand that success for African American women also involves overcoming unique obstacles (e.g., social stereotypes, trauma, poverty). The following questions guided this study: 1) How do African American women who were raised in under-resourced communities by female heads of households describe successes in their own lives? 2) To what do African American women raised in under-resourced communities by female heads of households attribute their success? Implications for parents, community members, counselors, counselor educators, and researchers are provided.

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