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“Staying Black”: the demonstration of racial identity and womanhood among a group of young high-achieving Black women

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Signithia Fordham’s theory of “racelessness” purports that while interacting with teachers, administrators, and peers in the school setting, academically successful Blacks must suppress the racial identities of their home worlds to secure and maintain the label of high achiever. My objectives were to examine how young Black women navigate between racially homogenous public schools in their neighborhoods to a racially integrated setting, and to highlight their involvement in work groups and social clubs as a way of expressing their racial identity and burgeoning womanhood. This study used interviews and questionnaire data gathered from a cohort of high-achieving young Black women in a highly selective honors high school to dispute Fordham’s theory, and to examine the various strategies that these women use to become and remain academically successful. This study revealed that through social club participation these female students are not raceless, and consciously identify as Black, and develop and demonstrate versions of Black womanhood that allow them to negotiate diversity. Implications for promoting racial integration, the development of Black identity, and the academic success of Black female students are provided.
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Keywords: Black; academic achievement; identity; race; raceless; womanhood

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2013

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