Dr. Apugo looks at bias toward African American women

Spotlight on SOE faculty research

Dr. Danielle Apugo, assistant professor in the VCU School of Education.
Dr. Danielle Apugo

The amount of knowledge being generated by VCU School of Education faculty in published research goes beyond merely enhancing the school’s reputation – it is helping to shape the future of education itself. One recent example of this is the study below, co-authored by Dr. Danielle Apugo, assistant professor and visiting faculty scholar in the Department of Teaching and Learning, which looks at African American women’s narratives of hair bias in schools.


Dr. Danielle Apugo, along with co-author Afiya Mbilishaka, explored hair discrimination experienced by Black and African American women in school. More than fifty Black and African American women were interviewed for the study and shared their negative interactions with their classmates or teachers.

Discrimination occurred in various ways, including teasing and bullying about hair appearance that often led to participants changing their hairstyles in damaging ways. Such hair bias also caused the participants to experience embarrassment and anxiety resulting in discomfort both in school and in interpersonal relationships. Young women often carry emotional scars from traumas related to appearance into their professional lives and womanhood.

This study uncovers the reality of Black and African American females’ experiences of oppression within their daily lives at school. The authors challenge pre-service and in-service teachers, school administrators and others concerned with the experiences of African American girls to explore their own biases and assumptions about hair and its impact on Black and African American girls and to put an end to the bullying and teasing that is so emotionally and physically harmful.


Mbilishaka, A. & Apugo, D. (2020). Brushed aside: African American women’s narratives of hair bias in school. Race Ethnicity and Education, DOI: 10.1080/13613324.2020.1718075.