Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department (Legacy)

Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology

Committee Chair

Cuyjet, Michael J.

Author's Keywords

African American men; College men; Masculinity; Ethnicity; Men's studies; Higher education


Male college students--Attitudes; African American college students--Attitudes; Self-actualization (Psychology)


The purpose of this study was to understand how African American college men construct masculine and ethnic notions of their identities, despite disproportionate social obstacles and hegemonic stereotypes. The primary research question of this study was, “how might African American undergraduate males understand and develop healthy concepts of their ethnic and masculine identities at a predominately White public institution?” The following research questions guided this study: (1) how do African American college men characterize their ethnic identity; (2) how do African American college men characterize their perception of their masculinity; (3) how do African American college men perceive their performance of masculinit(ies); (4) how do the ethnic and masculine identities of African American college men intersect?; and (5) how does being in college impact African American men’s identities? Critical race theory and methodology provided a conceptual framework for exploring and analyzing counterstories about the experiences of African American college men at a large research university in the Southeastern United States. In-depth, semi-structured interviewing served as the primary data collect source. Participants’ in-depth interviews formed counterstories of how nine African American college men made meaning of perceptions of their ethnic and masculine identities. Interpretation of their stories structured the data into four major themed categories: (1) dimensions of race and ethnicity; (2) dimensions of masculinity and manhood; (3) intersection of ethnicity and masculinity; and (4) college networks and relationships. The findings revealed that the African American college men involved in this study characterized ethnicity as the cultural expression of their identity and affirmed by the commonality of their African American heritage and culture. Race was characterized by the negative racial stereotypes ascribed to African American people, but particularly negative stereotypes attributed to African American men. Participants’ dimensions of race and ethnicity were based upon cultural characteristics of their physical environment and varied by rural, suburban, and urban communities. Participants described using ‘code switching’ as a strategy to establish relationships as well as to gain access within a predominately White society. Dimensions of masculinity and manhood were based upon traditional performances of masculinity and participants described their perception of manhood as a developmental process. The counterstories of participants’ perception of masculinity included, “Handling your business” as responsible Black men, dismantling hegemonic stereotypes of unemotional men by being “emotionally strong.” Faith, values, and respect emerged as cultural beliefs and characteristics of their African American background. For participants at the intersection of ethnicity and masculinity, findings reveal that negative racial stereotypes extend across physical environments and social class. Through a process of ‘reframing,’ the African American college men of this study describe establishing their own ‘versions’ of Black manhood and masculinity. Lastly, African American college networks, especially those dedicated to the academic and social success of African American men, established an environment where they could thrive by establishing meaningful connections with Black faculty, staff, and other students. The African American affinity groups, along with participants’ own determination to succeed, enabled the nine African American college men in this study to transcend all stereotypes. Among recommendations for practice, this study suggests connecting Black college men to African American affinity groups, especially those dedicated to African American men. Implications for research and theory that promote further exploration of the intersectionality of African American college men are also recommended.