An ethnography of an urban black Seventh-day Adventist school: A cultural web

Date of Completion

January 1996


Religion, General|Black Studies|Education, Religious|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies




An ethnographic study was conducted in order to explore the world of a separatist, black, Seventh-day Adventist school, to better understand broad segregation/integration issues within the text of a single school community. The study addressed the concern of why parents would send their children to a black separatist school in light of the vast resources being directed toward integrated schools. There are interrelated issues which contributed to the framework for studying this black urban SDA school. The research was directed toward examination of participants' perceptions of interrelationships among quality of education, their curriculum, and cultural influences such as Seventh-day Adventism, Afrocentrism and Eurocentrism, West Indian or other.^ Data collection methods included participant observation, informal interviews, questionnaires, field notes and log books. Maps, pictures and newspaper clippings were accessed. A dynamic framework similar to that of Peshkin's (1988) study of a Fundamentalist Christian school was used. The analysis of data utilized the ethnographic research cycle of Spradley (1980) and Guthrie (1985).^ The trustworthiness of the data was tested by checks and cross-checks of multiple sources, prolonged engagement and persistent observation (Adler & Adler, 1994). Descriptive accounts were made to afford the possibility of transferability (Denzin, 1994).^ Through continuous analysis a model was built (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) to represent four major cultures networking in the Covenant Hall Elementary School community: SDA, Afrocentrism/African American, Eurocentrism and West Indian.^ The model, a cultural web, is an interaction between the emic and etic. SDA culture is dominant in the official curriculum, racial attitudes and contributes to separatism. The prescribed curriculum and Iowa tests are Eurocentric. The celebration of Martin Luther King's birthday and Black History Month in January and February respectively are influenced by the Afrocentric/African American culture. West Indian completes the network of cultures, plays a key role in the demographics and influences both discipline and racial issues. ^