Theses Doctoral

Struggle to Control Black Leadership: A Study in Community Power

Brown, Tommie F.

An extraordinary number of scholarly works have been produced about community-level power in America. The focus of attention, however, has been primarily upon the Anglo-Saxon community. Virtually all these reports contained serious inaccuracies about black leaders. Where exceptions existed they were based solely upon data gathered during the legally sanctioned biracial system or immediately thereafter.

Conclusions about contemporary blacks tend to rely upon these earlier, suspect explanations. The most persistent theme can be stated as "black leadership is chaotic, episodic, non-representative, ineffective and uncontrolled by the black community."

This appalling lack of knowledge about contemporary black leadership has provided the framework for the case study of a medium sized southeastern United States city, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Twin (although not identical) hypotheses underlie the study:

First, efforts made by black and white communities to designate and control the actions of black leaders resulted in a bifurcated leadership structure. The findings of the study were that the interpenetration between the black and white communities altered and affected the patterns of power and influence in each.

Second, these two designated black leadership segments took different positions on issues because they represented the interests of different constituencies. The three operative variables--the years 1970-79, black leadership and designation sources--were measured with a range of data and methodologies. For example, modified-stratified samples of 29 white and 57 black respondents were used. Data extracted from newspapers and organization records were correlated with issues, events, and leaders and their activities.

The research data supported the major hypotheses, revealing that whites employed five major strategies which weakened and, at times, defeated blacks' goals. Evidence emerged to substantiate the existence of a decidedly cohesive black leadership which fashioned a set of skillfully designed and executed strategies while simultaneously coping with a counter black leadership structure supported by the white leadership.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 29, 2015