Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Curriculum & Instruction

First Committee Member

Christine Clark

Second Committee Member

Thomas Bean

Third Committee Member

William E. Cross, Jr.

Fourth Committee Member

Sonya Horsford

Fifth Committee Member

Steve McCafferty

Number of Pages



An emerging body of research shows that retention of minority independent school teachers creates a positive multicultural climate and increases the likelihood that minority families will enroll their children in the schools as well as preparing all students for a pluralistic society (Brosnan 2001b, AIMS 2010, Katz & Wishine 2001). However, retaining minority teachers in predominantly White and affluent independent schools has proved challenging (Brosnan 2001, 2001b, 2009). This qualitative multiple case study extends the current literature on Black private school teachers by not only examining the experiences, but also the coping strategies and professional identity development processes of nine Black teachers working in predominantly White, independent schools.

This study's main research question is: How do Black independent school teachers describe their experiences? Three key ancillary research questions are: What coping strategies do these teachers develop and/or use to navigate the independent school environment? What roles, if any, do/can these teachers' colleagues, administrators, and professional associations play in building a support network for them? How do these teachers develop a professional Black identity as token employees? Based on Kanter's (1993) theory of tokenism, this research explores Black teachers' experiences of racial tokenism in independent schools in an effort to uncover coping strategies and support mechanisms that lead to their retention. Further, the identity development of each teacher will be examined in relationship to Cross and Fhagen-Smith's (2010) modified nigrescence recycling theory.

Triangulation of surveys, interviews (both individual and group), and written responses identified four themes in the research. Theme 1 confirmed the original hypothesis that Black independent school teachers experience tokenism on a daily basis. The second theme revealed that the participants all employ similar coping strategies to counter the negative effects of tokenism; creating a personal mission, over-performing, and developing a support structure. Theme 3 confirmed the second hypothesis that Black independent school teachers develop their professional Black identity following the modified nigrescence recycling model. The final theme revealed that the participants overwhelmingly share formal school backgrounds that were similar in demographics, predominantly White and affluent, to the private schools in which they later chose to teach. The findings of this study provide independent school associations, administrators, and teachers with insight on how to create school climates that cultivate the retention of minority teachers.


African American teachers; Cultural fluency; Diversity; Diversity in the workplace; Employee retention; Independent school; Private schools; Shifting


African American Studies | American Studies | Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Education | Race and Ethnicity

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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