Date of Award

Spring 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Research and Administration

Committee Chair

Eric Platt

Committee Chair Department

Educational Research and Administration

Committee Member 2

Lilian Hill

Committee Member 2 Department

Educational Research and Administration

Committee Member 3

Kyna Shelley

Committee Member 3 Department

Educational Research and Administration

Committee Member 4

Ann E. Blankenship


Research about the experiences of Black international students studying in the United States is limited and often grouped with the experiences of all international students. While all international students share similar experiences and difficulties adjusting to their lives in the United States, Black international students have a unique experience based on their race and the historical connection they share with their Black American peers. Many Black sub-Saharan African international students are raised in countries where race is not a significant identity and therefore do not view race as significant part of their identity. However, race is a salient part of Black Americans’ identities because of its historical use to marginalize the Black population. Furthermore, many of these students lack the knowledge of the history of slavery in the American South and the economic, legal, and social consequences it had on the Black community. Many international students are also unaware of the significance of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

The purpose of this study was to explore the racial identity development of Black sub-Saharan African international students attending HBCUs in the former Confederate states and the influential institutional and regional factors in this development. Using a phenomenological approach to qualitative research data was gathered from nine students at seven different institutions using semi-structured interviews and follow-up journal questions. Seven themes emerged from the analysis of this data. These themes are 1) Pre-arrival knowledge and perceptions, 2) Race salience, 3) Important identities, 4) Learning the environment, 5) Encounters in the United States, 6) Friendships and peer interaction, and 7) Institutional support.

Most participants in this study did not experience a change in the significance of race. However, all participants acknowledged being aware and conscious of their race and its significance in American society. Factors that influenced participants understanding of race include the curriculum at their institutions, campus events, interactions with peers and faculty, and police brutality. Additionally, participants described a lack of inclusion and social support from their institutions. Implications for institutions and recommendations for future research are provided.