Elite Black Women in a White Society
There is very little research on elite black women, especially from a sociological perspective. The purpose of this narrative study is to investigate how elite African American women come to understand their experience of living in white America while maintaining their social ties in the black community. The data for this study come from the in-depth semi-structured interviews of 15 African American women of various ages, careers, and residential locations. The collected data were analyzed using open coding methods and theme development. Symbolic Interactionism and Intersectionality are relevant theories used in the study. Eight research questions guided this study. The research findings indicate: 1) Elite African American women tend to be highly educated, prestigious, well-off, and powerful, and they are often trailblazers and change agents. 2) They achieve upward career mobility through firm self-belief, extraordinary educational credentials, family support, relations within their work community, and black and white social networks. 3) They overcame racism and sexism by working much harder than their male and white female counterparts in school, work, and life. 4) Elite African American women are associated mostly with blacks in social settings, but some are associated more with whites at work and in career. 5) They maintain ties with the black community via churches, sororities, and other black professional social organizations. 6) Elite African American women got married but many experienced divorces; they provide great education and a nurturing environment for their children with family support while advancing in their careers. 7) They are uniformly Democrats, but some are conservative; their political affiliation and ideology have evolved over time. 8) Elite black women have more options in selecting their lifestyles and residential neighborhoods. The findings have implications for future research on elite black women and the upward mobility of African American women. The remarkable social mobility of the 15 African American women to the upper or upper-middle class status from a humble beginning with little family legacies or resources sheds light on how minority women can make it in white America.