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Black Feminism in Education

Black Women Speak Back, Up, and Out

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Edited By Venus E. Evans-Winters and Bettina L. Love

In Black Feminism in Education: Black Women Speak Back, Up, and Out, authors use an endarkened feminist lens to share the ways in which they have learned to resist, adapt, and re-conceptualize education research, teaching, and learning in ways that serve the individual, community, nation, and all of humanity. Chapters explore and discuss the following question: How is Black feminist thought and/or an endarkened feminist epistemology (EFE) being used in pre-K through higher education contexts and scholarship to marshal new research methodologies, frameworks, and pedagogies? At the intersection of race, class, and gender, the book draws upon alternative research methodologies and pedagogies that are possibly transformative and healing for all involved in the research, teaching, and service experience. The volume is useful for those interested in women and gender studies, research methods, and cultural studies.
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Chapter Eight: Having Our Say in Higher Education: African American Women’s Stories of “Doing Science” Through Spiritual Capital

← 92 | 93 →CHAPTER EIGHT

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African American Women’s Stories of “Doing Science” Through Spiritual Capital

EZELLA MCPHERSON

African American women are one of the fastest growing populations in higher education, yet they remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematical (STEM) fields. In 2010, African American women represented 14,858 (15%) of the 100,000 undergraduate women STEM recipients (National Science Foundation, 2013). Research also shows that spirituality affects college students’ academic achievement, engagement, persistence, and retention (Bowman & Small, 2012; Donahoo & Caffey, 2010; Gilford & Reynolds, 2011; Strayhorn, 2011). A growing body of scholarship confirms that African American women rely on faith and prayer to navigate college and/or graduate school (Agosto & Karanxha, 2011/2012; Patton & McClure, 2009). The reliance on the Lord through prayer, faith, and church are important components of spiritual capital (Chaney, 2008a; Friedli, 2001; Wortham, 2007). Yet, there has been little research that examines the connection between spirituality and African American women’s retention and persistence in STEM fields (Jordan, 2006; McPherson, 2012; Warren, 2000). Even fewer studies have explored African American women’s challenges in science majors (Agosto & Karanxha, 2011/2012; Jordan, 2006; Warren, 2000) and the role of spiritual capital in their college student persistence.

To fill these gaps, the purpose of this study is to investigate African American women’s experiences in STEM fields and persisting in the face of adversity. The chapter begins with a review of the literature on church and spirituality in higher ← 93 | 94 →education, followed by a discussion...

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