Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


Black teachers’ unique historical experiences are often completely overlooked or amalgamated with those of White teachers in states such as North Dakota, where the population is predominantly White and the study of African Americans is particularly sparse. This study examines the life experiences of Thelma Bertha Daggs (now deceased), an African American teacher at the Fort Totten Indian Boarding School, Devils Lake, North Dakota from 1949 - 1967. Emphasis was placed on describing and understanding past events and the particular life experiences of Thelma Daggs through collection, evaluation, analysis and interpretation of data, including a range of historical sources from her life and interviews with former students.

Thelma Daggs led a very private life, leaving me with gaps to fill. I use a combination of psychological and social analysis of Thelma Daggs’ motivations to reconstruct her biography in the broader historical contexts of African American history. I have supplemented some of the gaps by adding subjective commentary and conjecture from my parallel experiences as an African American woman and teacher in North Dakota. To assist the reader in distinguishing my subjective interpretive voice from that of my direct analysis of Daggs’ lived experiences, I have used a methodology of employing italics in the dissertation text itself to demarcate my own interpretive voice. This narrative technique allows me to differentiate between my traditional scholarly analysis of Daggs and the subjective interpretation that is informed by my own autobiography.

The results of this study found Thelma Daggs to be a cultural anomaly whose life experiences further illuminate the limited knowledge base on African American teachers in North Dakota. This study offers a new perspective on early African American feminist thought, paradigms, and epistemologies. My analysis offers insight on being an African American educator in a culturally different context (an Indian reservation) and exposes a life where strength was mustered to unravel and rise above the tangled web of race, class, and gender oppression.