Term of Award

Summer 2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading

Committee Chair

Sabrina Ross

Committee Member 1

Ming Fang He

Committee Member 2

Robert Lake

Committee Member 3

Donyell Roseboro

Committee Member 3 Email



Curriculum can be understood as a place of both struggle and possibility, where curriculum workers engage in complicated conversations about self, society, and the purposes of education (Pinar, 2004). Although curriculum theorists have contributed much to discussions of how to improve the current state of education, little attention in the field is given to the role that leadership can play in educational transformation (Ylimaki, 2011). This study contributes to the field of curriculum studies by exploring the ethics of care of Black women public school principals in the South.

By exploring the life experiences of Black female principals from the South, this study contributes to an understanding of curriculum as a racialized and gendered text (Pinar, Reynolds, Slattery, & Taubman, 1995) and as a place-specific phenomenon (Kincheloe & Pinar, 1991). Geographic spaces are linked to economic, social, and political structures; they hold memories and shape lived realities (Hoelscher, 2003; Kincheloe & Pinar, 1991). Education in the South occurs in the context of a history of human enslavement, violence, resistance, and often contentious race relations, all of which have impacted the behaviors of teachers and school administrators (Glymph, 2008; Hoelscher, 2003; Pinar; 1991).

To explore new possibilities for educational transformation, this study merges storytelling, autobiographical reflections, and information gained from intensive interviews with Black women principals to illuminate the social, historical, and political contexts within which Black women principals’ ethics of care are derived and enacted. By highlighting the knowledge and experiences of Black women public school administrators, this dissertation serves as a symbolic tribute to the Black women of my community who encouraged me on my journey to the principalship.

Four findings emerged from this study with implications for contemporary educational policies and practices. They are: (1) Black women principals’ ethics of caring are socially and culturally derived; (2) Black women principals simultaneously engage in interpersonal and institutional forms of caring that are intimately connected to issues of justice; (3) Life in the South was both a Curse and a Blessing for Black women principals; and (4) Black women principals are servant leaders who sacrifice themselves for educational justice

Research Data and Supplementary Material