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Black Males in Postsecondary Education: Examining Their Experiences in Diverse Institutional Contexts

reviewed by Rachelle Winkle-Wagner - October 09, 2014

coverTitle: Black Males in Postsecondary Education: Examining Their Experiences in Diverse Institutional Contexts
Author(s): Adriel A. Hilton, J. Luke Wood, Chance W. Lewis
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1617359327, Pages: 242, Year: 2012
Search for book at Amazon.com

Black Males in Postsecondary Education focuses on the overarching question: How does institutional type, size, and scope influence Black men’s experiences and development in higher education? Each chapter of the book explores a different postsecondary institutional type and demonstrates how institutional cultures and environments can change the outcomes and experiences for Black men. In so doing, Hilton, Wood, and Lewis have compiled a unique, anti-reductionist approach to the study of Black male experiences in college that illustrates the many differences between and among Black men and their experiences. The emphasis on differences between Black men is in itself a triumph: it pushes past the deficit-focused approach (i.e., what is wrong with the students, their backgrounds, or their outcomes) often taken towards the study of students of color in higher education.

In the span of twelve chapters, the book considers Black male experiences across community college, for-profit colleges and universities, liberal arts colleges, Ivy League institutions, historically Black colleges and universities, predominantly White institutions, religiously affiliated colleges and universities, not-for-profit colleges and universities, and Hispanic-serving institutions. The book draws from literature reviews, semi-structured interviews, large-scale surveys, longitudinal surveys, and focus groups. The diverse methodological approaches reveal multiple dimensions of experiences that Black men have in college—this is certainly one of the key attractions of the book. The authors bring together fresh ideas. An additional treat within this volume is that nearly every chapter ends with actionable recommendations for policy, research, or practice; the final chapter offers a compilation of recommendations across institutional types.

The book begins with a focus on two-year institutions. Chapter Two covers a forty-year overview of research on Black men in community colleges and emphasizes the barriers faced: racism, poor academic preparation, health risks, criminal justice policies, alienation, low expectations, and negative media portrayals. The chapter ends with an extensive list of policy recommendations for high schools, community colleges, and the state- and federal-levels of government. The next chapter begins with a literature review of the experiences of Black males within for-profit colleges—many of which are two-year institutions. Within the chapter, Fountaine shows that for-profit colleges are one of the leading granters of degrees for Black men—outpacing even historically Black colleges—particularly for degrees in business, management, or marketing. Fountaine concludes that for-profit colleges should be further examined as part of the educational pathways of Black men, in order to explore how to increase Black male graduation rates more generally.

The next six chapters center on four-year institutions. In Chapter Four, Berhanu and Jackson contemplate two Black men’s experiences as graduate students in an Ivy League institution. The findings demonstrate how undergraduate experiences with racism influence graduate school experiences (e.g., less engagement), and also offer a perspective on highly ambitious, driven Black male students. Chapter Five provides a counterpoint to the work on high-achieving Black men at predominantly White institutions, focusing instead on the impact of historically Black colleges. Gasman et al. describe how Black male participation has increased in some fields (computer science, biological science, and engineering), and demonstrate the need for research on Black male participation in other fields (e.g., mathematics, agricultural sciences). Chapter Six examines Black male enrollment and graduation from the top 50, nationally ranked, predominantly White institutions; findings reveal continued racial inequities in graduation outcomes for Black students. Chapter Seven explores the Black student experience in religiously affiliated institutions, many of which are also predominantly White. Marks, Carey-Butler, and Mitchell consider Black male experiences at private, not-for-profit colleges and universities: their findings suggest an increase in Black nationalist ideology and depressive symptomology, and a decrease in risky behavior, spirituality, and self esteem. Finally, Reddick, Heilig, and Valdez investigate Black men’s experiences at a Hispanic-serving institution and show that participants (a) were often unaware of the HSI designation, (b) regularly dealt with racial issues, and (c) turned to the Black student community for support.

The strengths of this book outweigh the limitations, but there are two issues that provide a call for future work. A few chapters provide examples of weaving theory into practically focused research, but overall there is a need for more connected theory to the practically oriented research, findings, and recommendations offered in this volume. Without explicit connection to theory, policymakers, administrators, and researchers may be tempted to rely on conventional wisdom—often to the detriment of communities of color (Winkle-Wagner, In Press; Zuberi & Bonilla-Silva, 2008)—to explain research findings. While reading, I wondered if the findings in this volume contradict theories often used to study college students, such as college student persistence models or student engagement (Perna & Thomas, 2008). My hope is that the authors, editors, and readers of the book will respond to that question in future work.

A second area to explore further in future research is that of gendered analysis. While the chapters are all centered on the Black male experience, there is more work to be done on how Black men experience masculinity and gendered messages and roles on campus. As someone whose research is centered on Black women, I would be remiss in not suggesting that some future work center on Black men’s relationships with Black women, or the influence of Black women on Black men in college. Though one volume can only cover so much, more explicit gendered analysis could be an impetus for future discussions and collaborations for these editors and authors.

In sum, I genuinely applaud both the editors and the authors of this volume for a thorough examination of Black men’s experiences across institutions. The strengths of this book outweigh the limitations. One of the highlights of this volume is its commitment and actionable recommendations, including the linkages between higher education and pre-K-12 education, the importance of engagement and involvement programing, the need for Black male initiatives and programming on campuses, the need for learning communities (both residential and academic), and the necessity of intrusive advising for Black male students. The recommendations, alongside empirical evidence, really do work towards what the editors call “transformative change” (p. 210) for Black men in higher education.


Bobo, L., & Hutchings, V. L. (1996). Perceptions of racial group competition: Extending Blumer's theory of group position to a multiracial social context. American Sociological Review, 951–972.

Perna, L. W., & Thomas, S. L. (2008). Theoretical perspectives on student success: Understanding the contributions of the disciplines. ASHE higher education report, 34(1), 1–87.

Phinney, J. S. (1996). When we talk about American ethnic groups, what do we mean? American Psychologist, 51(9), 918.

Winkle-Wagner, R. (In Press). Having their lives narrowed down? The state of Black women’s college success. Review of Educational Research.

Zuberi, T., & Bonilla-Silva, E. (Eds.). (2008). White logic, White methods: Racism and methodology. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: October 09, 2014
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17709, Date Accessed: 12/6/2021 9:41:32 AM

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About the Author
  • Rachelle Winkle-Wagner
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
    E-mail Author
    RACHELLE WINKLE-WAGNER is an Assistant Professor at in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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