The Chosen We

Black Women's Empowerment in Higher Education

By Rachelle Winkle-Wagner
Foreword by Diana Slaughter Kotzin

Subjects: Higher Education, Sociology, African American Studies, Women's Studies
Series: SUNY series, Critical Race Studies in Education
Hardcover : 9781438495422, 373 pages, December 2023
Paperback : 9781438495439, 373 pages, June 2024

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Table of contents

Introduction to the Foreword Author, Dr. Diana Slaughter
Rachelle Winkle-Wagner
Diana Slaughter Kotzin

Part I. Black Women’s Self-Determination in Education from Here to Eternity

1. The Collective History of Black Women’s Ways of Knowing

2. From the Unchosen Me to the Chosen We: Black Women Elevating Black Women

Part II. From Individualism to Transformative Community at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs)

3. Creating an Oasis Out of Isolation: Relationships That Provided Solace on White Campuses

4. Unapologetically Embracing Blackness: The Importance of Black Student Organizations on Predominantly White Campuses

Part III. From a Collective Legacy of Racial Uplift to Empowered Individual Identity at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

5. Blackness-as-Greatness: The Normalization of Nuanced Views of Black Excellence within HBCUs

6. HBCUs as Home and Family: Embracing Intersectional and Nuanced Blackness through Inclusion

Part IV. Embodying Race, Institutional Memory, and the Chosen We

7. From “Unity” to “Isolation”: Comparing Experiences within HBCUs and PWIs

8. In Sickness and Health on Campus: The Health Inferences of College Contexts and Health in 60 Years of Oral History

Appendix A: Putting Black Women at the Center as a White Woman: An Oral History Methodology
Appendix B: Participants Quoted in the Book
Appendix C: Reading List of Other Publications from the Project

Draws on and centers oral histories with Black women college graduates to demonstrate the role of community in fostering their success in and beyond education.


The Chosen We elevates the oral histories of 105 accomplished, college-educated Black women who earned success despite experiencing reprehensible racist and sexist barriers. The central argument is that these women succeeded in and beyond college by developing a Chosen We—a community with one another. The book builds on their words and insights to offer a powerful rethinking of educational success that moves away from individualistic and competitive models and instead imagines success as a result of recognizing what people owe to one another. It also uncovers the importance of the type of institutions that students attend for higher education, comparing Black women's experiences not only by region and era but also by whether they attended a predominantly White institution (PWI) or a historically Black college or university (HBCU). The Chosen We features theoretical and methodological exemplars for how to conduct research across lines of difference. The Black women's oral histories shared here manifest the wisdom from which many groups in the United States might benefit—that liberation is only found through community.

Rachelle Winkle-Wagner is Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the coauthor (with Angela M. Locks) of Diversity and Inclusion on Campus: Supporting Students of Color in College, and the author of The Unchosen We: Black Women and Identity in Higher Education, among other books.


"The Chosen We takes care to center Black women's voices in telling their stories. Building on her earlier book, The Unchosen Me, Winkle-Wagner highlights the empowering nature of collectivity, nuances our understanding of Black collegiate women's contexts, and shows how these contexts impact Black women's health." — Felecia Commodore, coauthor of Black Women College Students: A Guide to Student Success in Higher Education