Date of Award


Degree Type


University or Center

Clark Atlanta University(CAU)


School of Education

Degree Name



Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Moses C. Norman

Second Advisor

Dr. Sheila Gregary

Third Advisor

Dr. Darrel Groves


This dissertation developed from an awareness of the continuing census gap in the award of doctorates between African-Americans and Caucasians. In a 2006 summary report of doctorate recipients from United States universities by race and ethnicity over the years 1986, 1996, and 2006, there was a decline in the number of doctorates awarded whites from 91% in 1986 to 80% in 2006. Conversely, there was an incline in the number of doctorates awarded African-Americans from 3.6% in 1986 to 6.3% in 2006. Nevertheless, irrespective on the decline of one group and the incline of the other, a noticeable gap in the awards continued to be very apparent. Adapting from an educational theory concerning social systems theory proposed by Jacob Gertzel and Egon Guba, this study asked if the gap was a function of institutional requirements alone, self-efficacy on the part of African-American doctoral candidates, or racial/bias conditions in the U.S. culture. Literature reviews and results from interviews with twelve African-American doctoral graduates and eight African- American matriculating doctoral candidates-each associated with a highly selective doctoral fellowship program and each attending a predominately white institution in the southern University States--did not reveal institutional requirements to be the cause of the gap. Nevertheless, both sources confirmed the presence of various themes associated with racial and/or gender insensitivities that still operate in many graduate departments to retard award of the doctorate to African-Americans. However, the interview results revealed that African-American candidates' self-efficacy could move them either to achieve in spite of racial/gender insensitivities or flounder in their aspirations toward the doctorate. The chief themes or factors behind the direction of achievement--either pro or con-revolved around the degree of mentoring, networking, and positive departmental climate/support received by African-American doctoral candidates. Their passion for the doctorate, their early awareness for the importance of relationships with faculty, and their strong religious or spiritual faith emerged as three other unexpected themes that could accelerate accomplishment of degree requirements. The study recommended K-12 schools to emphasize the doctorate early to high achievers and graduate departments to employ sensitivity training with faculty.

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