Janice Y. Ferguson, PhD, is a 2015 graduate of the PhD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dr. Ferguson, right, with her committee members at her Dissertation Defense, October 2014, Antioch University, Keene, N.H.

Left to Right : Dr. Laurien Alexandre, Committee Member ; Dr. Jon Wergin, Committee Chair; Dr. Janice Y. Ferguson.

Not pictured : Dr. Barbara Nevergold, Committee Member


African American Women, equality, leadership, Blacks, Black Women, African Americans, Black History, American History, biography, higher education, history of education, Womens Studies

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This study is a leadership biography which provides, through the lens of Black feminist thought, an alternative view and understanding of the leadership of Black women. Specifically, this analysis highlights ways in which Black women, frequently not identified by the dominant society as leaders, have and can become leaders. Lessons are drawn from the life of Anna Julia Cooper that provides new insights in leadership that heretofore were not evident. Additionally, this research offers provocative recommendations that provide a different perspective of what leadership is among Black women and how that kind of leadership can inform the canon of leadership. Cooper’s voice in advocacy, education, community service, and involvement in the Black Women’s Club Movement are the major themes in which evidence of her leadership is defined. This leadership biography moves beyond the western hegemonic point of view and the more traditional ways of thinking about leadership, which narrowly identify effective leaders and ways of thinking about leadership development. The findings of this study propose an alternative view of leadership that calls attention to the following critical elements: 1. Black women carry the co-identifers, gender and race, which continue to be nearly nonexistent in leadership theories, discourse, and mainstream leadership literature. 2. The positivist view, as being the only legitimate knowledge claim, must continue to be challenged. 3. There is a need to correct and update our history, making it more inclusive of all human beings. This leadership biography centers on the notion that Cooper, as a quintessential leader, remains paradoxical. For the most part, she continues to be an unknown figure to most Americans, both Black and White. Yet, remnants of Cooper’s ideology and leadership are prolific. It is precisely this dissonance between Cooper the undervalued figure and Cooper the scholar/activist leader that is being analyzed in this study. Under severe adversities, her resistance, persistence, educational excellence as a student and teacher, and community service demonstrates her challenging path to leadership. Cooper’s activism and beliefs in racial and gender equality provides a strong example of quintessential leadership. The electronic version of this dissertation is at OhioLink ETD Center,


Janice Y. Ferguson, PhD,

Dr. Janice Y. Ferguson is a former Assistant Superintendent of a urban school district and a dean of a proprietary college. She is deeply involved in community organizations and activities that foster educational opportunities for African American women.