Experience of African American Athletes at Predominantly White Institutions: An Examination of the History, Exploitation, and Seclusion of Black Athletes

Date of Award


Document Type


First Advisor

Dr. Grace Livingston


African American student athletes have an unique experience at predominantly white institutions. Most predominantly white colleges and universities in our society have been structured through systemic and institutionalized racism emphasizing inferiority to its students of color, specifically African American students. However in recent years, African American students have taken up a large portion of roster spots on collegiate basketball and football programs, providing large sources of revenue and entertainment for these white institutions. Yet predominantly white institutions continue to value the athletic significance of these Black student athletes, ignoring the academic success and mental well-being of African American student athletes on their campuses. In addition, African American student athletes are perceived through a stereotypical lens due to their role as a Black athlete on their campus. Many African American athletes are viewed to put a significant focus on their athletics while oftentimes ignoring their academics which makes them subjected to “dumb jock” or “Black buck” stereotypes. However, this stereotype is unique at the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Division III level because statistics have proven that less than 1% of collegiate athletes will play professionally. Therefore, the vast majority of Black student athletes at the NCAA Division III level understand their likelihood of playing professionally is slim which means they must focus on their academic success in order to be prepared for the next step after college. However, white faculty, staff, and peers at predominantly white institutions consistently perceive these Black athletes to be nothing more than an athlete subjecting them to harmful stereotypes. The purpose of this study is to analyze the complexities of African American student athlete experiences at predominantly white institutions. This study will examine the sensations that African American athletes on predominantly white campuses are subjected to while simultaneously balancing athletics and academics. Additionally, this study will attempt to better understand how systemic and institutionalized racism within athletics has impacts on African American collegiate athletes.

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