Date of Award

Spring 4-23-2015

Document Type

Thesis: Open Access

Degree Name

MA Leadership Studies


Leadership Studies

Committee Chair

Christopher B. Newman

Committee Co-Chair

Zachary Green


A number of criminological theories assert that individuals from socioeconomically disadvantaged communities are more likely to participate in criminal activities. Given the confluence of race and class in this country Black and Latino men are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. However, less is known about men of color who grow up in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods, but do not commit crimes. In this study, the researcher examines a group of Black men who exhibited leadership to resist assimilated criminological behavior, which is the process of participating in crime in order to be revered by peers, family, or community members. This study focuses on understanding the groups’ resilience and ability to maintain personal values in environments that encourage criminal behaviors. This study defines a leader as someone who is admired, well liked, and thought of as a prominent figure in their respective community while thriving, adapting, and empowering others.

Using qualitative methods, the researcher conducted semi-structured interviews with 8 Black men, between the ages of 20-30. Face to face interviews were conducted in Atlanta, GA, Duncans, Jamaica, and San Diego, CA. Data analyses revealed that participants in the study, who were more comfortable with their identity, were less likely to participate in criminal activities. So the participants in this research believed the reason they were accepted by people who committed crimes in their community was because they were confident in who they were. Additionally, study participants unknowingly used an identity development technique called self-authorship, which posits that a person can become the coordinator of their beliefs, identities, and social relationships. The more the participants interrogated their worldview, their identity, and their social relationships, the more they developed their identity and the less likely they were to commit crimes.