Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Greg Brack, Ph.D. - Chair


ABSTRACT DEVELOPING A SUBSTANTIVE THEORY OF AFRICAN AMERICANS’ JUSTICE PERCEPTIONS by Felicia L. Berry, M.S. The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand how African Americans define justice and injustice. This study examined the justice perceptions of 12 (8 females, 4 males) African American undergraduate students and consisted of two phases: (1) Completion of the cognitive appraisal instrument (Roseman, Spindel, & Jose, 1990) which predicts the relationship between specific types of events and perceptional/emotional reactions to that event, and a semi-structured interview; and (2) Completion of focus groups one (FG1) and focus group two (FG2). Grounded theory (GT) (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) was the constant comparative method used for simultaneous data collection and data analysis. Consensus coding was determined through unanimous decisions between the coders. The results of the study indicated that the participants define justice as morality, vindication, and fairness/balance. Injustice was defined as unfair, unequal, discrimination, and immoral. The results of the study further indicate that the justice perceptions of African Americans are affected by the history of oppression and their minority status in the United States. The awareness of oppression factor was influenced by: discrimination, attempts at alternative explanations for unjust experiences, belief that slavery is sometimes used as an excuse, and the effect of just and unjust events on their psychological well-being. Racial identity is influenced by: spirituality/religion, media, gender and class. A relationship was observed between spirituality and racial identity in that racial identity was a main factor in determining what was just, while spirituality determined the event’s outcome. The present study contributes to the literature regarding what is known about African Americans’ religious coping and justice perception and can guide practice, advocacy, social justice, and future research.