Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


International and Multicultural Education


International & Multicultural Education EdD

First Advisor

Colette Cann

Second Advisor

Emma Fuentes

Third Advisor

Patrick Camangian

Fourth Advisor

Rachelle Rogers-Ard


Much race-based educational research is focused on teachers interrupting systems ofoppression in their classrooms, through methods such as curriculum and instruction, and preparing students to engage in the world (Alston, 2012; Bertrand & Rodela, 2017; Carpenter & Diem, 2013; Gooden & Dantley, 2012; Furman, 2012). I intentionally focus my attention on school leadership because while all stakeholders are responsible for maintaining school culture, as school leaders it is our responsibility to create conditions where the work of enacting social justice is expected in our schools. There continues to be a gap in educational research that deeply examines this level of critical leadership (Santamaría & Santamaría, 2012). There also is a gap of research on the innovation and contributions of Black women school leaders to the field of educational leadership (Dillard, 1995; Horsford & Tillman, 2012; Alston, 2014). Black women have served in an array of leadership roles, such as activists, academicians, and educational leaders in primary, secondary and higher education for over 100 years (Reed, 2012). The goal of this study is to add to the powerful legacy of Black women school leaders in public education. This dissertation calls upon four main frames—Black feminist thought (BFT), critical race theory in education (CRTed), ideological lynching, and applied critical leadership (ACL) by which to understand the experiences of Black women school leaders. Ideological lynching is a term I developed to describe one of the many ways that systemic oppression seeks to kill Black people. Specifically, I assert that ideological lynching takes place to co-opt Black people’s epistemological understanding of themselves and their place in the world and reiterate institutional racism and other oppressions (Garrett-Walker, 2018; Griffin, 1997; McLauren, 1998; Tappan, 2005; Tatum, 1997; Young, 1990). I wanted my study to intentionally decenter the challenges faced by Black women and to instead recenter their perceptions of joy and needs for healing; this purposeful choice of focus was rooted in the adamant refusal to allow others to feast off the trauma of Black women (Tuck & Yang, 2014). I conducted a qualitative research study with two subgroups, retired and current Black women school leaders (BWLs) of the same school district, to understand how they experienced and perceived their work. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews. After undergoing multiple rounds of data analysis using open coding and thematic analysis, three main themes emerged: how Black women school leaders are extensions of a long legacy of resistance, their insistence on critical hope, and how they claim radical healing. The implications of my dissertation study point to several areas of need, beginning with centering the experiences of racially diverse school leaders in the preparation and continued development of school leaders. My research adds to a growing cannon of leadership that guides new and established leaders through new tools and ways of thinking about self, anti-racist leadership practices, and how to interrupt harmful learning experiences for students.