Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

School Name

Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education



Major Advisor

Dr. Mary Ann Cahill

Second Advisor

Dr. Rosie Young

Third Advisor

Dr. Stephen Daeschner


This study is an interpretive study of African American female elementary principals’ experiences in a Southeastern public urban school district. The purpose of this interpretive research is to specifically examine five African American female principals’ perceptions of supports and barriers on the career pathway to the principalship in urban public elementary schools. The questions for this research included: How do African American females experience the process of becoming elementary school principals in a Southeastern, urban district? How have African American female principals described their experiences with educational institutions, communities and professional organizations? Tillman and Lomotey’s research is used to explain the significance of African American principal leadership in the elementary K-12 setting after Brown v Board of Education. According to Jean-Marie (2013), even though all leaders within educational institutions face numerous challenges in terms of achieving success, African American female principals often face unique challenges that are linked to their own cultural background. This research supports work from Schwandt (1994), who explained that an interpretative lens focuses on worldview values and embraces subjective interpretation while acknowledging such interpretations are socially constructed and therefore, shaped by the researcher’s own stand or position on a topic. The participants shared stories of experiences, supports from their family, spirituality, and community connection. The data provided evidence that life experiences, educational background, and educational programs informed the analysis of the career pathway to the elementary principalship.