Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Eric R. Wright

Second Advisor

Erin Espinosa

Third Advisor

Jun Zhao

Fourth Advisor

Jonathan Grant


The Black community’s response to ongoing exclusions from obtaining power, explicit attacks of violence, and underlying processes of systemic racism was and is resistance. One radicalized pathway of resistance for the Black community was labeled and identified by white Americanized society as Black gangs. Synthesizing over four hundred digitized newspaper articles from The Pittsburgh Courier (1940-2010), Braun and Clarke's (2006, 2012, 2013, 2019, 2021a, 2021b) reflexive thematic approach guided the examination of contributory social factors from a Black perspective impacting the subculture of Black gangs. The findings of this research take a historical system-impacted approach by centering Black voices to understand counter-narratives in opposition to the perpetual white hegemonic narrative. Thusly, the continued application of dominant narratives reveals an iterative cycle of birth, death, and re-birth of Black gangs in the Black community. This has (re)formed Black gangs within the Black community by emphasizing the consistent pursuit of community and economic power which transcends eras and generations.

The policy and practice implications of this study are understanding crucial relational components between Black communities and the justice system. Reframing explanations of Black gangs decolonizes gang research to understand assumed behaviors. The assumed behaviors have been deemed deviant by society for several reasons. These reasons include obtaining political, economic, and community goals which explicitly precluded the Black community by coercive state apparatuses. This work unveils the criminalization of Black communities illustrating that gangs are overtly part of the health and vitality of Black communities. Their criminalization uproots and deconstructs the order of Black life. The counternarratives developed facilitate innovative approaches for police and legal structures to engage neighborhoods of color when gangs are intertwined in the fabric of the community.


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