Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Education for Social Justice

Dissertation Committee

Maya Kalyanpur, PhD, Chair Reka Barton, PhD, Member Camika Royal, PhD, Member


Black School Leadership, Liberatory, Abolitionist, Freedom Dreaming, Cultural Intuition, Critical Race Theory, BlackCrit


Black students in the United States have consistently been denied access to empowering, culturally affirming, and responsive learning experiences in the traditional public system. The epistemological and pedagogical beliefs embedded in a liberatory mindset can subvert this pattern of disempowerment (Shujaa, 1998). Black school leaders (BSLs) who understand the systemic and institutional pressures Black children may face and have to overcome, having undergone similarly racialized experiences in school, are uniquely placed to create liberatory spaces for Black students by recruiting and developing these liberatory mindsets in their staff. This instrumental case study used qualitative research methods of front-porch pedagogy (McTighe & Haywood, 2018) through observations and interviews with BSLs and staff in one urban school. The study explored BSLs’ interpretations of the liberatory mindset, how it impacted staff selection, and ultimately guided alignment with staff on the co-construction of empowering environments for Black students. Findings revealed four elements that guided BSLs’ hiring and professional development decisions and positioned critical hope and personal liberation as levers for Black student empowerment: (a) Liberatory and Responsive Education Systems, (b) Resilience and Personal Growth, (c) Sociopolitical Awareness and Advocacy, and (d) Self-Determination and Courage as Outcome Drivers. The study indicates the importance of giving Black families educational choices, including ethnoculturally autonomous schools, and for leadership and teaching preparation programs to consider community of color epistemologies. It also invites aspiring non-Black educator allies to gain a deeper understanding of how their own epistemological development impacts their pedagogical presumptions of the potential of their Black students.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies