Black Greek-letter Organizations: A Legacy of African American Adult Education

Open Access
Jones, Keiwana O'neal
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
August 20, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Esther Susana Prins, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Nicole Sheree Webster, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Felicia Lynne Brown Haywood, Committee Member
  • Dwayne Kwaysee Wright, Special Member
  • Black Greek-Letter Organizations
  • African American Adult Education
  • Self-Help Tradition
  • Racial Uplift
The education of African American adults evolved in response to the changing social, economic, and political needs of the Black community. To address these needs, Black Greek-Letter Organizations (BGLOs) created and implemented initiatives at the local, national, and international levels using education as a catalyst to change aspects of African Americans’ social conditions in the United States. Though many individuals and civic organizations influenced and contributed to the education of African American adults, the initiatives of BGLOs were left in the shadows. Although the historical and cultural aspects of BGLOs have been well documented, research has neglected to examine this role from a graduate or alumni perspective. This qualitative case study sought to examine the role of five BGLO graduate chapters as providers of adult education, and to examine whether and how their initiatives embody the Black self-help tradition. Data were collected through in-depth, semi-structured interviews and analyzed using ethnographic methods of data analysis, reflection, and writing. The findings demonstrate that BGLO graduate chapters sponsor and/or participate in educational programming that: (1) builds healthy communities; (2) develops communities economically; (3) advocates on behalf of the race; and (4) uplifts the community through service. This study also elucidated how the adult education initiatives embodied the self-help tradition.