Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type


Terms of Use

© 2018 Lydia E. Koku. All rights reserved. This work is freely available courtesy of the author. It may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Educational Studies Department, Sociology & Anthropology Department

First Advisor

Daniel Laurison

Second Advisor

Joseph Derrick Nelson


At predominantly white institutions, black college students' understandings of their campus climate are complicated by their experiences of racial microaggressions and racial battle fatigue. In addition to navigating discriminatory encounters with peers, faculty and staff, black college students must contend with systemic inequality. Although prevalent research notes that positive racial socialization practices can prepare young people to think about, address and cope with racism, few studies have qualitatively explored black college students' perceptions of their socialization, and particularly, whether or not they were adequately prepared to experience and conceptualize racism in college. My thesis addresses these gaps by considering how black college students come into consciousness about racism through racial socialization, how effective they perceive their socialization history to be, how socialization informs their responses to racism and how their sociopolitical development manifests through their perceptions of their extracurricular involvements on campus as activism. Relying on racial socialization theory (Lesane-Brown 2006) and sociopolitical development theory (Watts 2003; Anyiwo et al. 2017; Freire 2000), my research questions are: How have black college students' racial socialization histories affected their sociopolitical development? What is the role of sociopolitical development in governing how black college students perceive and respond to racism on their predominantly white campuses? This phenomenological study analyzes in-depth interviews with ten students at Swarthmore College and Bryn Mawr College to explore the messages students received about race and racism during childhood and to identify how those messages prepared or did not prepare them to experience racism in college. The majority of participants describe feeling unprepared; the processes by which they prepared themselves (through education and activism) are critical to understanding how they construct meaning of Blackness, resistance, and liberation at their PWIs.


racial socialization, sociopolitical development, black college students