Acknowledging and learning from Black women’s leadership in education to promote antiracism

The authors illuminate the leadership roles of Black women in educational settings by focusing on their historical actions, epistemological perspectives, and ontological characterization in resisting anti-Black racism.

Reviewed by Roderick Taylor


Black women have faced unique challenges in educational leadership due to systemic racism and sexism; their roles and contributions in this space have often been minimized and overlooked for decades. This paper illuminates the leadership roles of Black women in educational settings by focusing on the historical actions of Black educational leaders, their epistemological perspectives (e.g., Black feminist thought), and their ontological characterization (i.e., inherent qualities and capabilities of Black women in leadership roles)  in resisting anti-Black racism.

In line with recent efforts to amplify diverse voices in educational leadership, this paper acknowledges the pressing need to address the intersectional challenges faced by Black women in educational leadership roles. It highlights the effect of Black women educators and leaders on communities of color; their work has been pivotal in shaping educational policies and practices, including by resisting segregationist policies and encouraging critical thinking and activism. By focusing on the experiences, methodologies, and contributions of Black women in educational leadership, this research provides a robust understanding of their impact. 

April L. Peters is  Associate Department Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Houston. At the time of publication, Angel Miles Nash was an Assistant Professor at Chapman University and is now a Program Officer at The Wallace Foundation.

Methods and Findings

The paper uses qualitative research methods to explore the experiences and leadership styles of Black women in education. The narratives of Black women leaders serve as the primary data source, offering detailed insights into their experiences, challenges, and strategies. The paper also uses the narrative methodology; this approach was chosen for its ability to capture the unique voices, perspectives, and experiences of Black women leaders. 

The researchers found that Black women educational leaders:

  • Use the Intersectional Leadership Framework. Black women leaders integrate their understanding of race, gender, and other identities into their leadership practices. 
  • Are Resilient. Black women leaders navigate the complexities of sexism and racism in educational settings. Their leadership approaches are informed by personal experiences, family influences, educational backgrounds, and professional interactions. Reflecting a deep understanding of and commitment to the communities they serve, Black women leaders prioritize community upliftment, equity, and advocacy.
  • Face Unique Challenges. The findings highlight the specific challenges Black women face in leadership roles, including combating anti-Blackness (e.g., advocacy against anti-Blackness)  and systemic inequities in schools and communities (e.g., disrupting cultural and social practices such as sexism). Black women leaders use various tools, such as spirituality, social networks, and advocacy to navigate these challenges.
  • Have a Profound Impact on the Field. The research highlights the impact of Black women’s leadership in creating more inclusive and equitable learning environments. Their leadership styles reflect a deep empathy for students and a commitment to providing opportunities and support. For example, Black women leaders have countered anti-Blackness and resisted oppressive educational norms and policies.


The paper illuminates the need for educational systems and policies to acknowledge and support Black women leaders. By highlighting the unique challenges and important contributions of Black women leaders and the importance of utilizing intersectional, antiracist, and anti-sexist leadership models in educational leadership, the paper shows what’s needed for equitable and inclusive education to be achieved where all students, including historically underserved students, can succeed.


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