Date of Award

Spring 5-22-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

William Boone, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Henry Elonge, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Kurt Young, Ph.D.

Abstract

Through a multiple case study approach, this dissertation outlined patterns of activism, examined the factors that assist in decision-making strategies used for the political mobilization of black women, and assessed the role and influence their organizations have in the health policy arena. Building on the belief that the intersectionality of race, gender, and class guides the activism of black women, the study acknowledges the importance of analyzing the political conditions of black women that are different from black men and white women. Furthermore, the research offered an argument for the need of a theoretical framework that provides a multidimensional analysis of black women’s political representation. For that reason, the theory developed in this study was a Black Women’s Activism Theoretical Framework. Expanding on black feminist thought, the framework reveals ways in which black female activists have mobilized for self-representation and building of their own collective self, vision, and voice.

A mixed research method and holistic case studies of five national black women- led organizations in the areas of breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and HIV/AIDS were applied. The qualitative data were quantified, coded, and placed on outcome, legislative, and perception success scales to gauge the level of successfulness achieved by the organizations from 2001 to 2015. The data were analyzed with a Black Women’s Activism model. With this analytical tool, the role and level of successfulness of black women-led organizations in the health policy arena were examined within the context of socioeconomic factors and historical barriers due to the intersectionality of their race, gender, and class, thus validating that the shared experiences of black women characterize their organizational behavior. Moreover, this study challenges the traditional definitions of activism, opting instead to place black women as political actors independent of the dominate group. The findings reveal that there are multiple pathways leading to the attainment of the ability to influence health policy and that black women-led organizations have played a pivotal role in doing so. Dispelling the myth that the political activism of black women should be through the lens of victimhood, the utilization of a Black Women’s Activism model has the potential to assist researchers in increasing their accuracy when assessing the extent in which black women-led organizations have been able to exercise a critical voice within the prevailing political culture.

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