Picture it: Black teenage girls girding themselves in cocoons of Diaspora pride, resilience and academic fortitude, growing toward self-actualization and building with their homegirls. This is not a fanciful scenario, but rather the way many Black girls go about their days. Black girl magic starts early, spreads often and contributes to intellectual and interpersonal growth for the girls and the communities of which they are a part. Researchers, led by a Black woman professor, recently found powerful linkages between pro-Blackness and academic growth in Black female youth.

The study showed a nexus between Black girls, who acknowledge and revere their Blackness, and their strong intellectual inquisitiveness and academic perseverance. While these findings existed in supportive academic environments, they also existed in less-than-ideal school communities too. Tellingly, the researchers found that positive racial-identity perspectives serve as buffers for Black girls in hostile or adverse learning environments.

As the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported, Dr. Sheretta Butler-Barnes led the study, entitled “Promoting Resilience Among African American Girls: Racial Identity as a Protective Factor.” Dr. Butler-Barnes is a social work professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Persons of color who have unhealthy racial identity beliefs tend to perform lower in school and have more symptoms of depression,” the professor said. “In our study, we found that feeling positive about being Black, and feeling support and belonging at school may be especially important for African-American girls’ classroom engagement and curiosity. Feeling connected to the school may also work together with racial identity attitudes to improve academic outcomes.”

Researchers surveyed more than 700 adolescent Black girls from middle and high schools in socio-economically varied Midwest school districts.