Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Richard L. Allington

Committee Members

Anne McGill-Franzen, Stergios Botzakis, Jennifer Morrow, Judson Laughter


The current dialogue surrounding Black youth portrays these youth as “thugs” who come from “broken” families and “apathetic” communities. Even some educational discourses portray Black youth as “at-risk” students who lack the resources necessary to achieve in school. These dialogues traffic in deficit language without paying attention to the successes found in the Black community. The purpose of this study was to utilize an anti-deficit perspective to capture the stories of how urban Black children in a mid-sized Southeastern city are achieving positive literacy and academic outcomes in the upper elementary and middle grades. I sought to understand how Black youth perceive and portray their academic and literacy achievement in the face of widespread deficit perspectives. Using photovoice and an experimental ethnographic design, I allowed my participants to become co-researchers and aid in documenting their own stories. Through photographs, interviews, and a group discussion, the stories the children told revealed that the children rely on themselves, as well as their families, schools, faith, and community in order to achieve success. Their stories are presented as a visual counternarrative and seek to challenge the dominant deficit discourses about them. The hope is that, based on this study, educational researchers (re)consider their approach to research in the Black community and place power back in the hands of those who own the story.

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