African american families under fire: Ethnographic views of family strengths

Beth Harry, Janette K. Klingner, Juliet Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


This article focuses on the discrepancy between school personnel's negative stereotyping of African American families and the family information gleaned by ethnographic research. Using findings from a 3-year ethnographic study of the special education placement process in a culturally diverse urban school district, we describe the general atmosphere of negativity that prevailed among school personnel with regard to African American families living in poverty. The article focuses on the families of three case study students who were referred to special education. Home visits and ethnographic interviews with caregivers revealed family strengths that were neither known nor tapped by school personnel. We interpret the findings in terms of the power of cultural capital and the discrepancy between the schools' perceptions of such capital and the capital actually possessed by families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-112
Number of pages12
JournalRemedial and Special Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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