Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Chwalisz, Kathleen


Several researchers have called for further research devoted to exploring positive psychology constructs among African Americans. In the present study, I addressed the aforementioned calls for African American positive psychology and existentialism research by utilizing the autoethnographic approach to explore the processes and resources that four African Americans accessed to critically think about and make sense of their lived experiences. Given the current sociopolitical climate, I wanted to intentionally use my academic and class privilege to amplify the voices and strivings of four African Americans for survival and meaning in life. I utilized the autoethnographic approach to share my personal narrative of developing critical consciousness to explain the contextual factors influencing my worldview. For this dissertation study, I also conducted in-depth interviews with three other African Americans over a series of interview sessions to explore what made their lives meaningful. A thematic analysis of the participant data was conducted to analyze and identify emergent themes. The thematic analysis produced six emergent themes and 18 subthemes to contextual powerful influences shaping their perceptions of meaning in life, existence and critical consciousness development. I am hopeful that readers will gain four different perspectives on how, as African Americans, the participants define and understand their existence, facets of life that make their lives meaningful, and how they have come to make sense of their worlds.




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