Date of Award


Degree Name

Leadership Studies


College of Education

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Dr. Barbara Nicholson, Committee Chairperson

Second Advisor

Dr. Charles Bethel

Third Advisor

Dr. Robert Rubenstein


It is obvious that there is a variety of perspectives that the educational environment needs to sensitively reflect to serve a diverse society equitably. In Southern communities, in particular, distortions of heritage are conflated with local governance that control public money, public memory, public value, public health, and public landscape, including the public school environment and marginalizes further historically marginalized groups. This qualitative study was grounded in critical race and cultural geography theories that examined dominant paradigms in the educational environment which shape identity. This dissertation explored the effect(s) of race and racism in the educational environment from the perspective of Black educators, including me. It paid particular attention to our perceptions of the effects of school names on our experience as students and educators. The purpose of this study was to discover how Black educators, as professionals and students, experience(d) what they perceive(d) to be symbolic capital, symbolic resistance and/or symbolic violence through schools named after individuals, in particular those sympathetic to the Confederacy and slavery, or prominent Blacks, and whether they have found ways to manage the impact of schools’ names for themselves and their students. The findings of the study were related to tenets of critical race theory and themes of cultural geography. Black educators perceived and experienced schools named for prominent Blacks as symbolic capital and a catalyst to create critical race curricula that highlighted the achievements of Blacks despite racism in America. Schools named for prominent Blacks were instrumental in challenging the dominant perspectives about Black inferiority by dispelling stereotypes and emphasizing social justice. The findings were that Black educators perceived and experienced schools named for White supremacists and Confederates as symbolic violence that could not be used to enhance curricula, or create a positive school culture around the ideals of the namesakes. As a trifecta for White supremacy, the names simultaneously solidified the permanence of racism, amplified the systemic racism that produced inequitable educational outcomes for Black students, and were racial microaggressions causing socio-emotional disruption for Black teachers and their students who grappled with educational leadership’s decisions to maintain the names.


Social justice.

Racism in education.

Educational equalization.

African American educators.