Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


African American college students-Psychology, Minorities in higher education-Psychology, Silence-Psychological aspects, Race relations, Multicultural education, Black, Students, African American, Race issues, Culture, Silence, Speaking, Communication, Minorities, Classroom behavior, Identity, Higher education


This qualitative study explored Black students' silence in classrooms at predominantly white institutions (PWIs) of higher education in the northeast United States. Fifteen student interviews revealed that teaching material centered on European-American culture and history influenced their silence. Participants perceived devaluing of people of color in course material and perceived that professors used and allowed racist language and opinions to pervade the classroom. Students negotiated the tension of having discordant views from the mainstream and at times, between other students of the same racial and cultural group. They often elected to speak out against perceived discrimination and remained silent in other times to avoid being judged. Often students found "safe spaces" including self-affirming majors and courses of study, and joined cultural and political student groups. Most participants perceived that they were stereotyped as the "angry Black" person and felt intimidated when in the racial, social class, and gender minority. Many participants believed that self-silencing for the sake of gaining knowledge was instrumental for their development as a student. The study concluded with suggestions for multicultural curriculum development and social policies for countering race bias and microaggressions in PWIs to increase Black students' comfort speaking out in class.




iv, 116 p. : col. ill. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 93-106)