A thesis presented by Matthew K. Clair

Presented to the Department of Government in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree with honors of Bachelor of Arts

Harvard College March 2009


Several scholars have studied the role of voluntary organizations in shaping the political and civic participation of citizens. Absent from this literature, however, is a critical examination of the organizations of upper-class black Americans. This project employs original data and a national data set (NBES, 1996) in order to investigate how (and if) elite black social organizations affect the political participation of their members. The study focuses on two organizational case studies: Sigma Pi Phi (Boulé) and Links, Inc. After an investigation that includes both quantitative and qualitative methods, this thesis finds that elite black social organizations have differing and significant effects on the participation of their members in electoral and non-electoral modes of political participation; further, these effects are often greater than those of the church, mainstream organizations and black advancement organizations. The results have implications for the study of black politics, the black middle class, social capital theory, and the mechanisms involved in the formation of participatory political behavior.


The Continued Significance of Black Social Organizations 4 8





16 23 27

Preeminent Organizations: Boulé and Links What is Middle Class?: Defining the High-SES Black Community Voluntary Organizations, Black Politics and Political Participation





35 39 45 51

Hypotheses and Revisions to the Civic Voluntarism Model Summary of Data Sources Summary of Methodology A Note on Causality

Members are Active Participators OLS Regression Analysis of NBISS Data OLS Regression Analysis of NBES Data Conclusion 53 58 62 72

Boulé and Links: Separate Institutions with Separate Effects The Varieties of Political Participation Conclusion 74 79 88

Archons and Links: Beliefs and Thoughts on Race, Status and Membership Protest and Politics: The Non-Electoral and Electoral Political Participation of Archons and Links Causal Inference: Qualitative Evidence of the CVM’s Participatory Factors Evidence of Other Causal Directions? Conclusion 91 97 103 110 120 123


132 138

I have not written about being a Negro at such length because I expect that to be my only subject, but only because it was the gate I had to unlock before I could hope to write about anything else. I don’t think the Negro problem in America can even be discussed coherently without bearing in mind its context; its context being the history, traditions, customs, and the moral assumptions and preoccupations of the country; in short, the general social fabric. - James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son (1955, 5).

The history of blacks in the United States has been one of exclusion. From America’s founding, blacks were excluded from full and equal participation in government, society and the economy. This exclusion helped to create a system of economic and social exploitation that hindered black socio-economic progress, black inclusion in the political process and black dignity – effects that many have argued still linger to this day (Bell 1993; Edley 1996; Feagin 2001; Frederickson 2002). Despite this history, a considerable group of black Americans, often aided by policies like affirmative action, has been able to overcome the hurdles of the American socio-political system to become members of the middle and uppermiddle classes. These black Americans of high-socioeconomic status (SES) often work alongside, socialize among and go to school with white Americans. At first glance, the narrative of social isolation that pervades much of the black American experience does not appear to apply as readily to these blacks or to this century,

especially in an era when the most powerful leaders of the two political parties are a black president and a black chairman of the RNC. In his commentary “From Protest to Politics” (1965), Bayard Rustin, the activist and co-founder of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), argued that the route to full black inclusion and economic equality would be through an electoral engagement with the political process. Acknowledging the gains of the Civil Rights movement in breaking down explicit racial barriers, he suggested that the rest of the struggle (for better jobs, an end to ghetto poverty, etc.) could not be brought about through “protest politics” (what I term “non-electoral” political participation). As he stated, “these interrelated problems, by their very nature, are not soluble by private, voluntary efforts but require government action or politics” (Rustin 1965). Within Rustin’s conception of politics and of the new direction required to bring about black equality, there was little room for non-electoral action through rallies, service, and institution-building through black

organizations. In the post-Civil Rights era, most scholars and political leaders have hailed Rustin’s then-visionary form of black politics. Yet, despite the fact that a black man has now succeeded to the nation’s highest office, the problems of the inner-city, the wealth gap between blacks and whites, and continued workplace discrimination haunt both the black community and American democracy. Even the black middle class is not shielded from this inequality. Despite engaging with whites on an equal footing in the workplace, schools and spaces of social interaction, the present black middle class still faces exclusion in a number

of ways. Whether it is psychological feelings of inferiority1 and group-based competition or real experiences of individual and institutional racism (e.g. job discrimination, workplace racism, and the racial insensitivity of neighbors and friends), the black middle class is often more keenly aware of the continuing ways in which full inclusion of blacks into the American social fabric may still be but a dream (Dawson 1994; Lacy 2007; Young 2004, 114-6;). In order to combat this exclusion, high-SES blacks have joined and continue to join black political, voluntary and civic organizations. During the early 1900s, social associations, mutual-aid clubs and freemason societies had become a major part of America’s social spaces, most notably among those in the black community (Putnam 2001; Skocpol, Liazos and Ganz 2006). These organizations served not only as black public spaces for coping with the exclusion of the dominant socio-economic system (Frazier 1957; Wesley 1954, 16), but also they served as sites for resisting the system of oppression that made them necessary in the first place. Although these organizations often took political stands and organized rallies or campaigns to resist political exclusion, they should be distinguished from the expressly political organizations, like the NAACP and the National Urban League. Unlike black political organizations, these black

A good number of scholars have documented the mentality of the black middle class. One of the most notable works is E. Franklin Frazier’s book Black Bourgeoisie: The Rise of a New Middle Class in the United States (1957). This book critiques middle class blacks as individuals who aspire to whiteness and regret their full incorporation as equals into the American socio-political system. Of their strivings, he states: “As a consequence of their isolation, the majority of the black bourgeoisie live in a cultural vacuum and their lives are devoted largely to fatuities” (Frazier 1957, p. 98). In his book The Black Experience in Middle-Class America: Social Hierarchy and Behavioral Biology (2001), Melvin D. Williams similarly notes that no amount of socio-economic progress can remove the lack of human dignity black Americans feel in American society (3).


social organizations were/are primarily focused on fraternalism and social bonding. They do not make direct demands on the political process through congressional lobbying or trying judicial test cases (Frazier 1957; Welsey 1954). Further, these organizations are not simply fraternities. Unlike fraternities, these organizations were/are made up of black professionals (not students) who tend to be middle to upper-middle class (Harris 2005; Jackson 2008; Wesley 1954). In this thesis, I distinguish between two major types of black social organizations: those that are (more or less) black versions of white fraternal orders and Masonic societies and those that are indigenously-imagined elite social organizations. This study focuses on the latter. A majority of the former organizations have become defunct (e.g. the Grand Fountain of the United Order of True Reformers), have been enveloped by their white counterparts, or include a significant number of members who would not be characterized as part of the black elite (e.g. the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows) (Grimshaw 1997; Skocpol et al. 2006; Trotter 2004). In general, these organizations are not nearly as influential – neither in society nor amongst elite blacks – as they once were (Jackson 2008; Putnam 2001). The latter social organizations, however, maintain. Established by pioneering black men and women, these organizations have no ties to white fraternal orders, societies or other organizations. These organizations – such as Sigma Pi Phi (Boulé), the Links, Jack and Jill of America, the Chums, the Girl Friends and the Guardsmen – consist of individuals from the black middle and upper classes and have chapters located in major cities throughout the United States.

The Continued Significance of Black Social Organizations Most of the literature on black social organizations is historical and focused on fraternal orders (Skocpol et al. 2006; Skocpol 2003, 35-6; Trotter 2004). In this literature, these black fraternal organizations and associations are analyzed for their past contributions to the black experience, not for their modernday contributions and continued existence. These social organizations are noticeably absent from most contemporary debates and studies of black political behavior and ideology (Trotter 2004). Current literature on the intersection between the political process and black institutions tends to focus, instead, on the black church (or, sometimes, black advancement organizations) as the site of black political growth, ideological formation and resource/skill transfer.2 While scholars like Michael Dawson and Melissa Harris-Lacewell mention the importance of many types of organizations and institutions in the creation of a “black counterpublic3” that shapes and creates black political activism, they make little critical mention or analysis of any other institution but the church (Dawson

The black church has increasingly become viewed as the most important institution among black Americans. Several scholars have studied its impact and offer it as one of the most fundamental institutions in black social and political identity/ behavior (just to name a few: Dawson 1994; Harris 1999; Harris-Lacewell 2004; Owens 2007) One of the few studies not relating to the black church is Brian D. McKenzie’s (2007) article “Reconsidering the Effects of Bonding Social Capital: A Closer Look at Black Civil Society Institutions in America.” This study, however, is also insufficient for this analysis. McKenzie looks at the effect of participation on members in black advancement organizations (like the NAACP) – organizations on which I do not intend to focus. Also, this study does not look at different types of political acts and it still reverts to using the black church as the main organization of analysis. The only other works that come close to studying contemporary black social organizations approach the topic from a philosophical or theoretical perspective. (e.g. Arneil 2006).

This term, mainly attributed to Michael Dawson, can be used to describe the black spaces of interaction, exchange, bonding and agitation that exist in the black community as a result of exclusion from white, dominant society (Dawson 2001).


1994; Harris-Lacewell 2004). Further, Dawson goes so far as to state that this black counterpublic space no longer exists among contemporary black Americans (Dawson 1995), suggesting that institutions like black social organizations either no longer exist or are irrelevant to discussions of black politics. Despite the silence of most scholars regarding the topic, elite black social organizations still occupy a major role in the black (particularly middle and upper class) community and (as a byproduct) presumably black politics and civic engagement. The study of these organizations could shed light on many important influences within the black (and mainstream) political process. First, elite black social organizations may exert a greater influence on the lives of well-off black Americans than does the black church. Middle class black Americans are less religious, and when they do go to church, the church is often inter-racial.4 Second, black social organizations, though sharply lower in number than during the 1900s, still exist and serve as mechanisms for coping against racial social isolation in the workplace, schools and neighborhoods (Lacy 2007). While these organizations may be fewer, the ones that remain are increasing in membership and influence (Gordon 2002; Harris 2005; Jarrett 1995) at a time when the black political/ advancement organizations (e.g. the NAACP) are becoming increasingly irrelevant to the black community’s needs (Assensoh and Alex-Assensoh 2002).


From my own analysis of the National Black Election Study of 1996, I find that high-SES blacks (whose definition I explain in chapters 2 and 3) appear to be more involved in black organizations than in church. Only 31% of these blacks attend church every week, while 70% are members of black organizations.


The relevance of these social organizations is real, particularly in an elitecentered understanding of politics. Several theorists and political scientists portray the middle and upper class black community as a bridge between less well-off blacks and white society (Bowser 2007; Patillo 2007). Philosophically and theoretically, black social organizations are seen as means by which the black middle class maintains its affinity toward, understanding of and commitment to the underprivileged black majority (Shelby 2005). This “black solidarity” (perhaps not the best term) is arguably necessary for the agitation for equality and justice in the American socio-political system. Further, this ethos of political group consciousness has implications for theoretical discussions of

multiculturalism in American society. Putnam (2001) has commented on the potentially negative impact of organizations that bond around race and class. Although this thesis is unconcerned with testing his predictions, the results of this analysis may help to inform the debate between those who believe the United States should be a nation of several multicultural social entities vying for political influence or a nation of one culture and one liberal-democratic impulse.5 More practically, black social organizations most likely operate as networks of friendship, where upper-class blacks interact, debate and collect political resources. While no scholarly attention has been paid to black social


Bhikhu Parekh is another contributor to this debate – but on the side of multiculturalism. In his book Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory (2002), Parekh argues that as the United States becomes more diverse, many cultural practices of immigrants and other minority groups will come into conflict with our Anglo-Saxon legal and political system. Parekh argues in favor of multicultural education and the maintenance of minority cultural practices instead of the classic American ideal of assimilation.


organizations in particular, it is likely that these organizations operate similarly to mainstream voluntary organizations, which have been shown to serve as political networks of resources and civic skills (Putnam 2001; Schlozman, Verba and Brady 1999; Verba, Schlozman and Brady 1995). The effect of these organizations on the black elite, then, would presumably help them to serve as “middle-men” (Patillo 2007) – individuals who advocate for “black” issues to the white, political power structure. These claims, however, have not been empirically tested. The impact of elite black social organizations on their members’ political participation and involvement is speculative and based upon studies of white (or mainstream) membership in voluntary organizations. The assumptions involved in this academic speculation ignore the differences between these organizations and mainstream voluntary organizations, the disparity in political power and socioeconomic resources between blacks and whites, and the ideological differences/ political goals of the black community as opposed to those of mainstream American society. As will be further developed in chapters 2 and 3, ordinary models of organizational influence on political participation may not be readily applicable to elite blacks and their social organizations.

Given the lack of literature and the evident implications, this thesis adds to the research on black political participation and organizational membership by exploring the impact of black social organizations on the political behavior of their middle class black members. I approach the analysis from an individual, not

an organizational, perspective. In other words, my goal is to understand how membership in these organizations affects the individual’s participation in modes of political or civic acts; my goal is not to understand how these organizations may or may not advocate for political causes or influence governmental action through lobbying or petitioning. I care about the individual, as the individual is the foundation of political action. At the end of the day, it is up to the individual to affect change in socio-economic and socio-political structures that negatively impact the black community, particularly those blacks who are most socially isolated and marginalized. From this perspective, I ask three main questions in this analysis and use both quantitative and qualitative data to find answers. First, I ask: does membership in elite black social organizations affect one’s level of political participation? While most civic organizations provide civic skills, networks of recruitment and the like (Verba et al. 1995), do organizations that are mainly focused on social bonding and the protection of blacks from the everyday stresses of living and working in integrated environments provide these same benefits? The answer is unclear. Second, I ask: do Links and Boulé differ with regard to the level and type of participation in which their members engage? The focus of these organizations, together and separately, is different from that of mainstream voluntary organizations. Yet, the literature on civic participation aggregates memberships in wildly different organizations and assumes that the aggregate effect applies for all different types of organizational associations. Further, the literature often, though not always, aggregates several political acts into over12

encompassing indices that do not show how membership affects varied forms of participation. Instead, I focus on two main types of participation: electoral (such as working on a political campaign or voter registration drive) and non-electoral (such as private, voluntary acts of protesting and community service). I want to know how these black social organizations differ and, if they have an effect, what type of participators these organizations make. Finally, I ask: what are the institutional mechanisms that may contribute to these effects? Because my analysis (based upon survey data) can never prove the directional flow of causality between organizational membership and participation with certainty, it is important to find out what kinds of mechanisms these organizations provide that may contribute to the effects that I find. This third question is proposed with that intent in mind. Further, this third question intends to test whether or not the mechanisms offered by conventional models of participation apply to these elite black social organizations. This thesis unfolds in six major chapters. Chapter 2 describes two specific black social organizations: Sigma Pi Phi (Boulé) and the Links, Inc. These two organizations (with data from their respective chapters in the Nashville, Tennessee area) serve as the case studies of this analysis. Chapter 2 will also discuss the literature surrounding organizational influence on political participation and civic engagement. Chapter 3 serves to frame my specific project, explaining the theory, hypotheses and methodology employed. In chapter 4, I look to answer the first question of this paper. Is there a relationship between political participation and membership in these elite social organizations? Chapter 5 looks

at the separate effects of each organization and examines the degree to which Boulé and Links differ in the effect they have on their members. I also explore the specific types of participation in which members of these organizations tend to engage, paying close attention to non-electoral forms of engagement – a crucial, but often overlooked, element of black politics. Chapter 6, through the use of indepth qualitative data, serves to fill in the gaps, provide a clearer picture of the members of these organizations, and uncover the possible directions of causality between membership and participation. This chapter, in essence, focuses on the third, and final, question of my analysis. I conclude with chapter 7, which will also provide suggestions for future directions of research.


BOULÉ AND LINKS: OVERLOOKED IN THE POLITICAL PARTICIPATION DIALOGUE In this study, I focus on two of the most prominent and lasting elite black social organizations in the United States: Sigma Pi Phi (Boulé) and the Links, Inc. (Links). Both organizations were established in the early 20th century in order to serve as spaces of social interaction, engagement and (to an extent) service for middle and upper-middle class black Americans excluded from larger American society. Of the many organizations founded during this time period, Boulé and Links remain, growing in size and influence among the upper-class black community. In this chapter, I intend to paint a picture of the two organizations, their formation, their present situation and their potential effect on the political behavior of their members. I also intend to describe the upper-middle class black community, which I will refer to as the “high-SES” (socio-economic status) black community. I briefly define my measurement of “class” or “high-SES” in order to

clarify the exact community I intend to study. Finally, in this chapter, I will also provide a review of the literature relating to such voluntary organizations in political science, grounding my scholarship in a field that (despite its breadth) has failed to undertake a rigorous analysis of elite black social organizations, their members and their effect on political participation and engagement.

Preeminent Organizations: Boulé and Links Boulé and Links are arguably the two most prominent elite black social organizations. These two organizations are gendered; Boulé is for men, while Links is for women. Both organizations are referenced often in elite black circles, and distinguished members of the black community belong to each (Frazier 1957; Harris 2005; Jackson 2008; Jarrett 1995). Notable individuals in Boulé have included W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, Jr., A. Leon Higginbotham, Julian Bond, David Dinkins, and Arthur Ashe. In Links, distinguished women have included Regina Jollivette Frazier, Betty Shabazz, and Gladys Gary Vaughn. Often the husbands of women in Links are in Boulé and vice-versa. The preeminence of these organizations is largely attributable to their history and aura. Sigma Pi Phi (Boulé) was founded in 1904 in Philadelphia by Henry M. Minton, a black American physician and author, and three other men. Boulé was the first professional Greek-letter organization for blacks. Because upper-middle class blacks like Minton were isolated from one another in Philadelphia and excluded from the area’s white fraternal orders and associations (as in many other cities during that period), Minton found that there was a need

for such an organization to “bind men together so that they know one another better and that they may so aid one another and that they may accomplish for the common good that which each could not achieve by his individual endeavors” (Wesley 1954, 40). As the organization slowly incorporated new members and established new chapters (known as boulés) in other cities, the organization’s reputation grew as a distinguished – and even elitist – organization of extremely high-achieving black men. While the organization has become more focused on social action6 (through its foundation, social action program and monetary support of black advancement organizations), its main purpose in the past (and still to this day, most would argue) was to serve as a social and intellectual space for these middle class men through regular meetings, upscale garden parties, Christmas socials and Grand Boulés (bi-annual meetings of all the chapters). The Links, Inc. was founded later than Boulé in 1946 by Margaret Hawkins, an artist and activist, and Sarah Scott, a teacher. Both women were married to physicians, solidifying their status as part of the black middle class of

While Boulé was always meant to make sure its members were exemplars of their community, as an organization it was founded with the understanding that its primary objective would be social cohesion among upper-class black men. In other words, service and community involvement was supposed to be done by members individually, but not as part of the organizational context. During the 50s, however, many archons questioned the lack of attention the organization gave to black advancement, even though individual members led the way in desegregation of facilities and winning legal battles (Wesley 1954, 345). It was not until the 27 th Grand Boulé in 1964 at the New York City Waldorf-Astoria that the organization decided to become more active in the nonelectoral, as well as electoral, political processes. Percy Julian argued in his noteworthy speech “Faultless Prophets” that the organization should be part of the Civil Rights movement and the general struggle for black advancement. He lambasted his fellow men for sitting on the sidelines of the struggle. From his speech and the general atmosphere of the 1960s, Boulé has emerged more conscious of its role in black advancement, initiating a foundation and a social action program that remain to this day. In fact, as of fiscal year 2007, the foundation had assets of $10.6 million (Boulé Foundation 2007).


the time (Parker 1992). Like Minton and the men of Boulé, these women were pioneering, innovative, and excluded from many white voluntary organizations – because of their race as well as their gender. The purpose of this new organization for these women was reflected in its current mission statement, which states:
The Links, Incorporated is an organization primarily comprised of women of African heritage who are committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the identities, culture and economic survival of all people of African origin through cultural, educational and civic programs. Through our partnerships we promote activism to help bring about positive change that transcends time, race and socio-economic differences (Links 2009a).

Unlike Boulé, service and commitment to black advancement is an important feature of Links. The women engage in service through institutional programs like their International Trends and Services, which has the purpose of finding ways to improve the living conditions of individuals throughout the world. Although service is integral to the philosophy of the organization, as further evidenced by the Links Foundation, the requirement of members to complete service hours and the millions of dollars the organization has donated to the NAACP (Ebony 1996), the organization is not a black advancement organization. The organization does not take political stands, does not lobby, is exclusive in its membership and values the social interaction and sororal relationship among its members. In fact, 100% of Links respondents interviewed for this study7 described the main purpose of Links to be partially, if not fully, social and sororal. Presently, these organizations have maintained their prominence, unlike other fraternal black organizations founded in the early 1900s (Grimshaw 1997;


As described in chapter 3, I interviewed several members of both Boulé and Links in addition to the survey I distributed. All the links who took part in the in-depth interviews expressed that Links is about sisterhood, social bonding and service.



Figure 2.1: This photograph was taken during the establishment ceremony of the Epsilon Boulé in 1911. This chapter of Sigma Pi Phi was the “fifth fraternal unit.” The first members of this boulé included Carter G. Woodson and Roscoe Conkling Bruce – both of whom are pictured above.


Figure 2.2: This photograph, taken on February 12, 1950, captures the first executive council meeting of the Links, Inc. The meeting took place in the Hotel Theresa in New York City and included women from the nearly two dozen chapters established by that time.


Trotter 2004; Wesley 1954). As of 2002, Boulé had around 100 chapters located in large cities in 25 states throughout the US – from Tucson, Arizona to Shreveport, Louisiana (Jarrett 1995; Olechowski 2002). The organization’s members (who are referred to as “archons”) are well-off black men who have attained some level of professional success, whether in academia, medicine, law, business or government. No undergraduate or graduate students are members of the organization. Links is similar to Boulé in its requirement that its members (referred to as “links”) should be adults who are no longer undergraduate or graduate students. Although a not insignificant number of women in Links are homemakers, most women (especially now) are professionals in their own right. As of 2009, Links “ha[d] a membership of 12,000 professional women of color in 270 chapters located in 42 states” (Links 2009). Both organizations are exclusive, which provides this thesis with two ideal organizations with which to study the effects of social bonding in an exclusively elite, black social network. In both organizations, individuals become eligible for membership by invitation to join; one cannot request membership. Further, the organizations tend to be timid in expanding their membership, though in recent years each has become more open and willing to take younger members (Jarrett 1995; Parker 1992). The exclusivity of these organizations creates black social spaces sealed off both from white opinion/ influence and also the opinion/ influence of the majority of blacks. The position of these organizations allows an effective study of the influence of elite black social networks on forms of political participation; and, this exclusion brings a couple questions to the fore. When elite

blacks are separated from other blacks and whites, are they attentive to the larger black community’s needs or are they more focused on their own social position and status? And more pertinent to this study, what type of participation and civic engagement, if any, could such exclusive, social organizations foster in their membership? The literature provides few answers to these questions; moreover, the answers that are provided are based upon theory and assumption, not empirical research. Political scientists like Robert Putnam (2001) argue that by reifying social inequalities and flaming intolerance, such organizations could be harmful both to their members’ engagement and also to the nation’s democracy. He also argues that only bridging networks (those that are less exclusive) link individuals to “external assets” and “information diffusion.” Putnam, though, does note the potential benefits of bonding groups like Boulé and Links, stating: “bonding social capital is good for undergirding specific reciprocity and mobilizing solidarity. Dense networks in ethnic enclaves, for example, provide crucial social and psychological support for less fortunate members of the community” (Putnam 2001, 22).8 In the sociological literature, scholars have exacted more direct

Brian McKenzie (2007) finds that, in fact, Putnam was wrong with regard to bonding groups not being able to provide their members with “external assets” and “information diffusion.” He finds that those who are members of black advancement organizations are more likely to be members of mainstream civic and voluntary organizations. In other words, those who are in bonding organizations have even better access to external resources than those who are not. This study expands McKenzie’s findings by looking to other forms of participation, particularly non-electoral forms like community service, participation in rallies and campaigns, and the influencing of politicians from the fringes of the electoral process. Further, this study’s findings would serve to add to or reject McKenzie’s findings as these two elite social organizations (Boulé and Links) are even more bonding than general black advancement organizations (which only bond along racial, not class, lines).


criticisms of these elite black organizations. E. Franklin Frazier in Black Bourgeoisie (1957) argues that instead of aiding in black advancement and incorporation into the political process, these organizations only serve to uphold the system of white supremacy through “snobbishness” and maintenance of a bourgeoisie economic system (Frazier 1957, 81-6). Even members of these organizations critique these groups for their supposed frivolity and lack of civic engagement. Percy Julian, in a speech entitled “Faultless Prophets” (1964), lashed out at fellow archons for “sitting on our inherited stools of intellectual eminence and merely watching the streams [protest of the Civil Rights movement] go by” (Harris 2005, 120). A majority of respondents to this study (particularly the archons) also noted their belief that their fellow links/ archons were rather inactive. Are these assumptions regarding organizational membership and participation true? Are these members truly “faultless prophets” (a term used satirically by Julian) basking in their eminence, unconcerned with black political engagement? As part of this thesis, I will parse these theoretical assumptions and help to resolve several debates over the impact of elite social organizations on the black middle class and the larger black community. In this investigation, I focus on two specific chapters of Boulé and Links. Both chapters are located in the Nashville, Tennessee area and were selected because of accessibility9 and representativeness.10 The Sigma Pi Phi chapter is


Being from Nashville, I was able to gain access to the membership lists and contact information of the members of Chi Boulé and the Hendersonville-area (located in Nashville) chapter of Links. I do not have this access with both a Boulé and a Links chapter from any other city.


called Chi Boulé, and the Nashville chapter of Links that I focused on is called the Hendersonville-area Chapter of Links, Inc. Chi Boulé has 38 members, its yearly dues are nearly $1000, archons have meetings 9 times a year, and the chapter holds several annual social engagements. The Hendersonville-area chapter of Links has 59 members (including a few “alumnae”), its yearly dues are roughly equivalent to Boulé’s, it has 9 general meetings each year, and members meet regularly in smaller meetings called “facets” to discuss issues relating to the foundation and other initiatives. As mentioned earlier, these two chapters are quite representative of the national ethos of each organization. Each chapter’s demographic make-up and ideological aim mirrors the national trends of the respective organizations. Given this consistency, I proceed under the assumption that any influence felt by members of these chapters is an influence that should be taken to be indicative of membership in all chapters of these organizations.

What is Middle Class?: Defining the High-SES Black Community


The membership of Chi Boulé consists of a variety of men of different professions and a small number of men who are younger than the average age of an archon. This trend is mirrored throughout the U.S. with regard to membership in Boulé (Jarrett 1995). This chapter also adheres to the national guidelines, is active, and has members who attend the Grand Boulé each year. Finally, studies of the Sigma Pi Phi in the 1960s found that “there are more graduates of Fisk and Meharry [two black universities in Nashville] who are members of Sigma Pi Phi than there are of any other single college or university” (Jarrett 1995). (In general, Nashville has a large concentration of HBCUs, including Fisk, TSU, American Baptist College and Meharry.) From these facts, it is reasonable to say that this chapter is representative. For Links, the Hendersonvillearea chapter also consists of women of a variety of professions, including homemakers. This mirrors the national membership (Parker 1992). Further, the Hendersonville-area is very active in the national foundation and other service projects. In fact, the Hendersonville-area chapter initiated a micro-loan program that could be adopted by other Links chapters. Therefore, this chapter is not only representative, but it is also one of the chapters to look at to see where the future of the organization may be headed.


Up to this point, I have referred to the demographic group on which I focus as “middle class,” “upper-class” and “high-SES.” These terms are admittedly imprecise and serve mainly to enable the reader to have a general understanding of which demographic group makes up these elite social organizations. While there are several ways to classify who is and who is not part of the black middle class,11 I choose to focus on education and household income as two variables that are definitive of what I mean to be the black middle class or the high-SES black community. In this study, the theoretical underpinnings of “class” and “status” are unimportant. What matters most is the access that these individual members have on account of their income and education. The income and education of these individuals, regardless of their actual control over the “means of production” or the value of their net worth, defines them by others as well-off individuals, grants them access to other elites and professional co-


There are several debates over what constitutes the middle class, what constitutes the black middle class, and the concept of “class” in general. The major, traditional division in thinking about class status is between Marx and Weber. Marx’s conception of class revolves around control over the “means of production.” The middle and upper-classes consist of those who control the means of production and thus the commodification of labor. Several scholars have noted that under this conception of class, few if any blacks are part of the middle class because of the American socio-economic system, which includes embedded institutions of racial stratification. Although blacks have attained middle class income and education, they do not own, these scholars argue, the major economic institutions that are the bases of our economy (Bowser 2007; Oliver and Shapiro 2006; Williams 2000). A Weberian conception of class, on the other hand, is much looser and involves more descriptive ideas of class, such as wealth, status and cultural mores (Bowser 2007; Lacy 2007). Such a conception of class is based more upon how individuals perceive themselves and behave in relation to others. The important take-away is that there is no general consensus on what exactly defines class or middle class or black middle class; often, it is historically contingent and based upon evolving standards and relative measures. What is most important to this study is not if my definition fits within either a Marxian or Weberian framework; rather what is important is what the individuals I define as middle class/ well-off have or are able to accrue as compared to those who are part of the lower-class.


workers and, presumably, gives them a baseline level of substantial political knowledge (Schlozman, Page, Verba and Fiorina 2005; Skocpol 2004). For household income, I look to the top two quintiles of income, considered by many to contain the upper-middle class and the truly wealthy. Because the main data set12 I use in this study was collected in the summer of 2008, the questions regarding household income refer to income from the year 2007. As such, I base my quintiles upon 2007 data from the Tax Policy Center. In 2007, individuals with household incomes of $62,000-$100,000 USD 2007 are in the 4th quintile. Those with household incomes above $100,000 USD 2007 are in the 5th quintile. The top 5% of Americans made above $177,000 USD 2007. All of the individuals in Links and Boulé are well within the upper-middle class from a purely income-based perspective. 97% of archons had a household income greater than $100,000 USD 2007, while over 70% of links did. Regarding education, I measure education as having attained at least an associates or bachelors degree in order to be considered a part of the high-SES black community. This criterion is based upon a general academic consensus that this is the appropriate cut-off as a determinant of high socioeconomic status. The knowledge, skills and networks accrued in an institution of higher learning are drastically different than those accumulated in high school. The majority of members of Links and Boulé have attained a level of education higher than a college degree. 74% of links and 82% of archons have an advanced degree.

The data set, which I title the Nashville Black Ideology and Social Survey (NBISS) is an original data set that I collected in the summer of 2008. I will discuss this data set further in chapter 3.


The members of these elite social organizations are part of a larger black middle/upper-class that has grown markedly in the United States from the 1970s as a result of affirmative action, decreased overt racism, and increased educational opportunities. In the early 20th century, when Boulé and Links were founded, the black elite was extremely small and consisted mainly of domestic help and a few individuals in the trades and professions. By the middle of the 20th century, the class grew, aided by the demand for black doctors, lawyers and insurance agents to fill the void left by white refusal to service blacks in these professions (Landry 1987). By the late 20th century, the black middle class grew even more as whites began to allow blacks to enter the mainstream economic system. From 1969 to 1986, the percentage of black families considered “upper-class” (defined in terms of income and status) tripled from 3% to 9%. The absolute number increased from 143,000 families to 624,000 families (Billingsley 1990). Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that in 2006 9.1% of blacks made more than $100,000 USD 2006. After accounting for inflation, only 1.7% of blacks made above $100,000 USD 2006 in 1975. While this group of blacks is increasing and has made significant gains, the disparity between whites and blacks is stark. More than 20% of whites had a household income over $100,000 in 2006, but the numbers are much lower for blacks. Since the 70s, the wealthiest group of blacks has consistently made a household income that is on average just 70% of that of the wealthiest group of whites (Bowser 2007, 118). In other words, while blacks have


made significant gains, what it means to be in the black upper-class is still different than what it means to be in the white upper-class.13 Voluntary Organizations, Black Politics and Political Participation Civic associations and their influence on participation have been studied in American politics at least since Alexis de Tocqueville’s oft-referenced analyses of American culture and politics in the middle of the 19th century. de Tocqueville saw the American use of civic associations and voluntary collectivity as unique features of the American political process. These groups, he observed, decreased dependency on the government for certain services, served to energize citizens for collective action, and functioned as the basis for robust civic participation by ordinary citizens (de Tocqueville 2004; Ostrom and Ahn 2003; Putnam 2001; Verba et al. 1995). Despite the uniqueness of these associations to American culture and politics, most voluntary associations were not open to blacks until the post-Civil Rights era. Before then, black participation in the political process tended to be one strictly of non-electoral influence (like marches and protests for black advancement) instead of electoral influence (like campaign volunteering and voting) (Harris, McKenzie and Sinclair-Chapman 2008; Tate 1994; Walton 1994). This external influence was aided not only by political and black advancement organizations, but also by fraternal societies and social organizations similar to Boulé and Links (Skocpol et al. 2006). As a result of the Civil Rights movement,

When disparities in wealth (net worth and net financial assets) are taken into account, the contrast between blacks and whites is even greater. See Oliver and Shapiro (2006) for a discussion of this gap.


many scholars have argued that black organizations – and black political influence more generally – have shifted toward electoral political influence (Harris et al. 2008; Tate 1994; Verba et al. 1995). But, the analysis of these authors has mainly been based upon assumptions, has not looked to specific black social organizations, has not analyzed the black middle class and has not looked to different forms of political participation to conduct a rigorous analysis of this notion. Most analyses of black political participation do not take into account middle class blacks’ behavior or their involvement in black civic/social organizations. The most influential institution in studies of black behavior (and black political attitudes) is the black church. Numerous researchers have looked to the black church as the basic unit for analyzing black politics (Dawson 1994; Harris 1999; Harris 1994; Harris-Lacewell 2004; Owens 2007; Tate 1994). Arguably, the black church may be the most influential actor in affording political resources, skills and knowledge to its members. However, when studying the politics of high-SES blacks, this reliance on the church may be insufficient as these blacks are increasingly attending mixed-race churches in their suburban neighborhoods, joining other forms of religion or not attending church altogether (Harris 1999; Washington 1974). Further, the black community may be witnessing the decreasing influence of the church in the post-Civil Rights era as compared to other organizations among elite blacks. In my own analysis through the NBISS, only one of eleven respondents mentioned the role of the church without prompting. Most often, these respondents instead spoke freely of the

black organizations and mainstream civic organizations in which they were involved. Further, these studies of black participation are rare in and of themselves; most black political studies center on the political ideology of blacks, rather than the extent to which blacks participate. These ideological studies of black politics tend to analyze the attitudes of blacks, especially as compared to similarlysituated whites. Michael Dawson (1994) looks at the “black utility heuristic14” and argues that blacks maintain ideas of linked fate and racial solidarity, even as they become more well-off and better-educated. He attributes this heuristic to several mechanisms, including black organizational affiliations. Other scholars (Bledsoe, Welch, Sigleman and Combs 1995; Gay 2004) have looked to the impact of residential context on beliefs and attitudes within the black community. And with regard to the black church, the ideology of blacks, as a result of membership and active participation, tends to be analyzed to a much greater extent than their resultant political behavior. While this research is important and could even serve as a basis for understanding the mechanisms involved in the behaviors of blacks in the political process, it does not show how blacks participate. The study of why blacks vote or do not vote, rally or participate in political campaigns, etc. is much harder to come across in the study of black politics.

The “black utility heuristic” is a term that Dawson (1994) uses in his book Behind the Mule: Race and Class in African-American Politics. Dawson argues that the heuristic explains the finding that perceptions of racial group interests often supersede conceptions of class interests among high-SES blacks. In other words, he finds that many of these blacks maintain ideological (and perhaps, emotional) connections to other blacks who are not of their same class.


Recently, this trend has been changing as it has become clearer that research involving mainstream participation may not capture the differences in black engagement. Harris et al. (2008) study changing trends in black participation since the 1970s. They find that black participation is highly dependent upon institutions and economic downturns. Owens (2007), in his book God and Government in the Ghetto, finds that black participation can be influenced by the black clergy’s connections to and relationships with government agencies. However, both of these studies are structural in their methodology – focusing on the institutions instead of the individual, as he/ she relates to the institution. As noted in the introduction, this study aims to look at the individual (embedded within the organizational context) as the main unit of analysis. I am more interested in the influence of these organizations on their members’ behavior and political engagement. Brian D. McKenzie (2007), whose work is commented upon earlier, takes an individual-level approach to participation and analyzes the impact of black advancement organizations and the church on the electoral political participation (voting, participation in non-racial civic organizations, etc.) of members. He finds that membership does in fact correlate with higher levels of participation; however, his study does not look at elite black social organizations or the relationship between membership and non-electoral forms of participation (rallies, community development, etc.). Arguably one of the most rigorous studies of black participation and organizational membership is Katherine Tate’s book From Protest to Politics: The New Black Voters in American Elections (1994). Tate

uses data from the National Black Election Study of 1984 and finds that being a member of any of several black advancement organizations has a significant impact on campaign activity, but not voting. While Tate’s work sheds light on organizational effects, it lacks a discussion of elite black social organizations. Tate’s work, like McKenzie’s, also does not look at the relationship between membership and non-electoral forms of participation. In fact, her work only studies the correlation between membership and the two acts of voting and campaign activity (Tate 1994, 82). The literature on mainstream voluntary organizations, authored mainly by scholars like Kay Lehman Schlozman, Theda Skocpol and Sidney Verba, is also relevant to this investigation. Compared to the work of McKenzie and Tate, this literature provides more depth in some areas, but less depth in others. Sidney Verba, Kay Schlozman, and Henry Brady’s work Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics (1995) studies the effects of voluntary organizations on individual political behavior. Through their research, Verba et al. uncover that an individual’s organizational membership, after controlling for several demographic and associational factors, has the effect of increasing involvement in several political activities, such as voting, campaign contribution and contacting an elected official. They find that “non-political voluntary associations play an even larger role than job or religious institutions. The effect of such associations is almost equal to the combined effect of job and religion – underlining their central role in American democracy” (Verba et al. 1995, 452).


From their research, Verba et al. develop the Civic Voluntarism Model (CVM).15 This model is based upon the work of many scholars, as wide-ranging as Pierre Bourdieu (Field 2003) and James S. Coleman (Coleman 1994). The CVM is also related to the work of Robert Putnam (1995; 2001), who argues that social capital and networks are garnered through participation in organizations. For Putnam, social capital increases the trust and reciprocity among individuals in these organizations, increasing their engagement in their communities and participation in their democracy, among other benefits. Putnam’s work, though, focuses mainly on the organization, not the individual, as the main unit of analysis. For Verba et al., a quantitative approach that focuses on individuals within institutions (rather than institutions composed of individuals) enables an understanding of the direct effect and magnitude of organizations on citizens. The thesis is informed by and, to an extent, seeks to build on the theoretical and substantive results of Verba et al.’s CVM. This Civic Voluntarism Model of political participation reveals that an individual’s amount (number of political acts in which he/she partakes) of political participation is a result of


The Civic Voluntarism Model focuses on three main variables that Verba et al. suggest determine the amount of political participation in which a person engages. These variables are: initial characteristics (social class, race/ethnicity, gender and parents’ education), pre-adult experiences (education, politics at home, and high school activity), institutional involvement (job level, non-political organizations, and religious attendance), and “participatory factors” (family income, civic skills, civic vocabulary, political recruitment, political interest and political information). Using OLS regressions, the authors find that the participatory factors of political involvement are directly affected by membership in voluntary organizations. Voluntary organizations enable individuals to network, allowing them to develop close friendships through which political interaction comes about. The direct effect of these organizations on political participatory factors suggests that there is a strong, indirect effect from these organizations on political behavior.


several life processes and institutional factors that accumulate over one’s lifespan. Verba et al.’s research and use of the Civic Voluntarism Model suggest that institutional involvement does in fact have an effect on political participation, even after controlling for other independent variables that accrue over one’s lifespan. The authors argue that the accrual of civic skills, resources and recruitment mechanisms explain the means by which organizational membership increases political participation. While Verba et al.’s research, along with that of others, is a thorough analysis of the influence of non-political associations on political participation, the examination is unable to fully account for the political behavior of elite blacks. First, the effect of non-political organizations on high-SES blacks is probably different than the effect of these organizations on the general American population (or the general black population, for that matter). High-SES black political interests, methods of participation and networks of recruitment/resources, shaped by exclusion and heightened racial awareness, are different from those of similarly-situated whites and other minorities (Bowser 2007, 144; Dawson 1994; Lacy 2007; Tate 1994; Walton 1994). Further, high-SES blacks have different incentives (from their higher income and education) and organizational affiliations (like elite black social organizations) than blacks as a whole (Dawson 1994; Frazier 1957; Tate 1994). Second, and perhaps most importantly, the definition that Verba et al. use to define non-political organizations (or social


organizations) is far too broad16 for what this study attempts to analyze. Similarly, the measurement used by Katherine Tate is also too broad, as it includes all types of organizations that are “working to improve the status of black Americans” (Tate 1994, 92). Third, as will be touched on in chapter 4, non-electoral forms of political participation are not included in the aggregate analysis of participation. This is especially true in Tate’s work. Verba et al.’s work includes some nonelectoral measures, but not others. They do not look at rallies/marches and community social action – two very important “protest” activities for this study.


In their appendix, Verba et al. state that they define a non-political organization as one that “does not take stands on public issues.” Further, they state that they “asked, in fact, about a wider range of activities specifying many types of organizations and probing more specifically for religious based participation” (Verba et al. 1995, 549).


A NEW APPROACH TO PARTICIPATION AND ELITE BLACK SOCIAL ORGANIZATIONS This chapter frames my empirical analysis. In this chapter, I explain my exact criticisms of models of mainstream political participation as they relate to organizations, outline the exact hypotheses I attempt to answer, describe my methodology and data sources and, finally, conclude with a note on the limits of causal inference.

Hypotheses and Revisions to the Civic Voluntarism Model This study intends to understand the participatory political behavior (both electoral and non-electoral) of high-SES blacks, with a specific focus on the role of social organizations in forming these political behaviors. As noted above, much evidence and research has been devoted to the study of political participation and the role of organizations in this process. However, this analysis has been limited in several respects.


In this section, I suggest a different approach to looking at participation that focuses on specific organizations, rather than broad affiliations, and specific political acts, rather than just an analysis of an index of several political acts. Further, I argue that the historical and contemporary goals of the social organizations of the black upper-class (based upon a response to exclusion in the workplace, social circles and the larger political process) suggest that these organizations have a different effect on the types of political participation of their members than other types of voluntary organizations. While several models of political participation exist, this study focuses on the Civic Voluntarism Model (CVM) posited by Verba, Schlozman and Brady in their work Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics (1995). I have chosen to focus on this model of participation because it is one of the most comprehensive, providing a thorough analysis of the specific mechanisms and factors that contribute to participation on an individual-level. The CVM accounts for political participation through three mechanisms: (1) resources (time, money and civic skills), (2) engagement (or an individual’s eagerness to be part of the political process, which is derived from one’s sense of political efficacy and sense of duty, among other like factors), and (3) recruitment (through social networks and institutions). Through their analysis, Verba et al. uncover that membership in non-political organizations has a statistically significant effect on all three of the factors of political participation.17 The authors conclude that through these factors

See page 434 of Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics (1995). Involvement in non-political organizations has a significant (at the .01 level) effect on civic skills, vocabulary, recruitment, political interest and political information. These participatory factors are


being a member of a non-political, voluntary organization has a positive effect on the participatory behavior of an individual. Despite the CVM’s methodological and conceptual advantages, it – like other models and studies of organizational effects on political participation – fails to look to the effect of specific types of voluntary organizations on their members’ political participation. In order to test the effect that membership in voluntary, non-political organizations has on political participation of individuals, the CVM uses survey data that asks respondents to answer whether or not they belong to any type of voluntary association. This question results in an exceedingly broad measurement of what it means to be a member of a voluntary association. A respondent who answers “yes” to such a question could be a member of any type of organization from a religious group or fraternity to a neighborhood club or environmental group. While their model finds that an expression of membership in these many different types of organizations has a positive effect on political participation, their model says little about the specific organizations, the influence of multiple memberships, etc. From their analysis, one cannot determine exactly which of these voluntary, non-political organizations has a greater effect on participation. And more interestingly, this lack of specificity hampers an effective understanding of whether or not different

embedded within one or more the three main factors of the CVM. From this analysis, it is evident that being a member of a mainstream non-political organization (measured quite broadly) increases one’s civic skills, civic vocabulary, chance of being recruited through social networks to participate, interest in the political process and information about politics (including political efficacy).


organizations have different types of effects on participation through different mechanisms. In this study, I proceed to test the general applicability of the main findings of the CVM to elite black social organizations, their members and their members’ politics. Ever aware of the differences between black politics and mainstream politics and between the black middle class and the white middle class, I also proceed to expand the CVM by analyzing non-electoral forms of political engagement. Given the CVM and the social capital literature on the connection between institutional/organizational membership and political participation, I first hypothesize that membership in an elite black social organization will increase an individual’s political participation18 (H1). Second, because of the slightly differing aims, goals and network opportunities of Boulé and Links, I hypothesize that membership in Boulé will differ from membership in Links with regard to each organization’s effect on its members’ political participation (as defined in H1). Specifically, I hypothesize that members of Links will be more politically active than archons (H2). The more active, service-oriented nature of Links leads me to this hypothesis. If there is any significant difference between these organizations (even if not in the way I hypothesize), this hypothesis would question the aggregate way in which most studies of civic engagement measure membership. Membership in one


Participation, here, is defined as an aggregated index of several traditionally researched political acts. The index is explained in further detain the methodology section of this chapter.


organization could be exceedingly different than membership in the other, even if the organizations are quite similar. The final hypothesis derives from the literature on black political studies, the black utility heuristic and the historical purposes of black institutions. The uniqueness of these organizations, as described in the preceding chapters, leads me to hypothesize that membership in an elite black social organization will have a greater, positive effect on an individual’s non-electoral forms of participation (like rallies/marches, community service and membership in black advancement organizations) than on his/her electoral forms of participation (like donating to a campaign, working on a campaign and organizing a voter registration drive) (H3).

Summary of Data Sources In order to test my hypotheses, I employ the use of two survey data sets and 11 in-depth qualitative interviews. One data set is an original data set I collected over the period of two months (July-August 2008). The data set, which I term the Nashville Black Ideology and Social Survey (NBISS), is derived from a standardized survey of members of Boulé and Links. As part of this survey, I also contacted several members of the two organizations in order to conduct in-depth qualitative interviews. In addition to the NBISS, I also use the National Black Election Study (NBES) (1996). I will use the NBES both to validate my own data set’s findings and also as an independent means of testing one of my hypotheses.


The relevant questions and variables for the NBISS is included within Appendix B. The NBISS was collected over a two month period in the summer of 2008 in the Nashville, Tennessee area and included two phases. The first phase was targeted only to residents of the Nashville area who are archons in Chi Boulé and residents of the Nashville area who are members of the Hendersonville-area chapter of Links. As mentioned in chapter 2, Chi Boulé has 38 members, and the Hendersonville-area chapter of Links has 59. For Boulé, Chi Boulé is the only chapter in the Nashville area. For Links, however, there are four chapters of the organization in Nashville. I chose the Hendersonville-area chapter, as noted in chapter 2, because of accessibility and representativeness. Although the chapter was formed in the area of Hendersonville (which is just east of the Nashville city limits), the great majority of its members live in Nashville or other suburbs; chapter involvement is based upon general locality, not specific residence. Further, several of the archons of Chi Boulé have spouses (called archousai) in the Hendersonville chapter of Links. In the first phase of the collection of NBISS data, I mailed the survey to every member of these two organizations. The survey included demographic questions, questions about electoral and non-electoral acts of political participation, questions about political attitudes, and questions about race and identity. Some of these questions were derived from previous surveys and studies; however, most were new questions. To increase the likelihood that the individuals surveyed would respond to the survey, I included a stamped envelope with my

address as both the mailing and return addresses. This method also ensured my respondents of the anonymity of their responses, encouraging them to answer the questions more faithfully. In total, 29/38 members of Chi Boulé and 38/59 members of Links responded. This resulted in a response rate of 76% for Boulé and 64% for Links. In the second phase, I altered the survey questions slightly, removing questions specific to involvement in either Boulé or Links. I mailed this survey to my control group, which I snowball sampled from Boulé and Links members. At the end of the survey for archons and links, I asked them to provide the name and address of a “black (man or woman) in Nashville who is not in any (Boulé or Links) chapter who may agree to be surveyed for my thesis.” From this method, I received 22 names and addresses. In response to my mailings, 9 individuals (4 men and 5 women) responded, resulting in a response rate of 41%. This group of 9 people serves as my control group. Although snowball sampling has its methodological problems and introduces elements of bias, it also enables me to control for several variables. Because my control group is quite similar in demographics to my group of members in Boulé and Links, I am more readily able to tease out the effects of membership in these social organizations (Johnson, Joslyn and Reynolds 2001). In order to further assure the reader of the representativeness of my control group, I have compared my group to individuals of similar levels of income and education found in the NBES (1996). The NBES is a full-coverage random-digitdial telephone survey that was conducted before and after the 1996 presidential

election. I focus on the sample of 1,216 respondents interviewed immediately before the 1996 election. Thus, the responses regarding presidential vote and other forms of electoral activity are in relation to the 1992 presidential election and the 1994 midterm election. Focusing on the pre-election NBES sample provides its advantages, including the hampering of a possible “Obama effect”19 that may have occurred in the NBISS data. Upon comparison of the NBISS control group to the NBES control group, Table 3.1, located in Appendix A, reveals that my NBISS control group is very similar to the NBES high-SES group. To create the NBES high-SES group, I dropped the individuals who made less than $50,000 USD 1996, who had less than an associates degree and who were not between the ages of 40-70. Through this method, I was able to create a group of individuals who appear demographically similar to my NBISS control group. The NBISS control group,

The first advantage of the pre-election group is that it is larger than the post-election group (which includes 854 respondents). Second, a focus on the pre-election group enables a greater replication of my NBISS sample, as it was conducted immediately before another election – the 2008 presidential election. Third, and finally, focusing on the pre-election sample helps to control the “Obama effect.” This effect is the theory that the viability of electing Barack Obama, the first black president, would have energized the individuals sampled in the NBISS to participate in the electoral political process to a greater extent than they normally do. It should be noted that this theory would have no effect, even if true, on the regression analysis provided in later chapters – for the effect would have applied for members and non-members alike. Even if the effect interacts with members in a different way than it does with non-members (perhaps because of mechanisms involved in the elite organizational context), this interaction would be attributable to the main variable of concern: membership in an elite organization. The “Obama effect” is only problematic in the comparison of the NBES high-SES group with the NBISS high-SES control group. The effect could cause the NBISS group to be more active than the NBES group. Focusing on two preelection cycles, though, helps to eliminate some of the effect, because any presidential election increases participation. Further, this theoretical effect would have been slow to actualize and may not have reached its full potential by the time I conducted the NBISS survey. Finally, when using the NBES as a comparison for my NBISS control group, I mainly focus on characteristics (demographics and affiliations, not electoral participation) that would remain unchanged regardless of an “Obama effect.”


however, is disproportionately heavy in high-income and high-education. Although one individual in this group had a household income between $80,000$100,000 USD 2007, the majority (87.5%) of the individuals in the group have household incomes above $100,000 USD 2007. The NBES high-SES group is skewed in the opposite direction. Only about 27% make above $90,000 USD 1996, which is roughly comparable to the NBISS individuals who make over $100,000 USD 2007, after accounting for inflation. Because the NBISS high-SES group is much more skewed toward the upper-end of income and education as compared to the NBES high-SES group, I was uncertain about the validity of comparing the two groups. Nevertheless, these two groups are strikingly similar on all of the non-demographic measures on which I was able to compare the groups. The non-demographic measures I used to compare the groups were: membership in a black advancement organization, linked fate perceptions and voting behavior (Table 3.1). I chose these measures for two reasons. First, they were worded similarly between the NBISS data set and the NBES data set. The wording is important in order to ensure that the questions between the data sets are measuring the same phenomenon. Second, these questions were the most relevant to the questions this study attempts to answer. As Table 3.1 reveals, my NBISS control group is similar to the NBES high-SES group, suggesting that the NBISS control group is fairly representative despite its small size. The proportion of individuals in black advancement organizations is nearly the same – only a minor 2% difference. Also, levels of

linked fate perceptions are strikingly similar. Finally, voting participation rates are identical – both at 100%. It appears the NBISS control group is in fact representative of higher-income black Americans. Given this finding, it is appropriate to use this as my control group when running OLS regression analysis to measure the relationship between membership in these two elite social organizations and engagement in the political process. In addition to the two survey data sets, I also draw on in-depth interviews with a sample of 11 respondents. Because the gathering of a diverse group of interview subjects is important for qualitative research (McCracken 1998, 34-8), I identified potential subjects from the membership directory of each organization by choosing individuals who would collectively represent an array of professions, ages and levels of commitment to the organization. Of the individuals who agreed to partake, 5 were links and 6 were archons. I conducted face-to-face interviews, usually in their home or office. The interviews were collected using standardized questions in order to provide each respondent with the same stimuli. If a question was insufficiently answered, I would probe further by emphasizing a key part of the standardized question or by asking the respondent to elaborate further. Aware of the difficulties regarding interview processes, I dressed professionally and remained neutral in my reactions to responses. I also provided the respondents with appropriate forms to safeguard their personal information and ensure them of the confidentiality of the interview.20 In that vein, I have changed the names and

I took several steps to ensure the validity of the respondents’ answers. While I cannot list all of the steps, I more or less followed the recommendations provided by Fowler and Mangione (1990) in their book Standardized Survey Interviewing: Minimizing Interviewer-Related Behavior.


other identifiable information that is unimportant to the qualitative study. The questions asked of the respondents are provided in Appendix B.

Summary of Methodology As stated, this work employs a mixed-methods approach that combines statistical analyses of survey data (chapters 4 and 5) with qualitative evidence from in-depth interviews (chapter 6). To interpret the qualitative evidence, I used a simple coding methodology. I developed a system to code specific types of responses I was looking to see. Particularly, I paid close attention to references to (1) the institutional mechanisms theorized to be affiliated with participation from Verba et al. (1995) and (2) any responses that suggest that participation either has no relationship with membership or flows in the opposite causal direction that I hypothesize. The names and other identifiable information of those interviewed were changed or removed in order to safeguard their confidentiality. For the quantitative data, statistical analysis involved first defining my dependent variables of interest (traditional political participation, electoral political participation and non-electoral political participation) and then determining my control variables. For the NBISS quantitative data, I define three separate dependent variables. The first variable, traditional political participation, is an index of five political acts. These five acts are: (1) engagement in a rally or march in the past 5
Among their recommendations, they provide that standardization is important (18-21), it is important to be non-judgmental and employ non-directive probing (37-8), it is necessary to maintain interpersonal neutrality (48) and it is beneficial to insist that the respondent’s answers and ideas are both legitimate and highly important to the study (73, 79).


years, (2) writing a letter to a politician in the past 5 years, (3) taking part in the organization of a voter-registration or other political drive in the past 5 years, (4) volunteering in a political campaign in the past 5 years, and (5) donating to a political campaign in the past 5 years. I define this index as “traditional” because most models of participation include these elements as their basic aggregate measure of political participation. Missing from this index is the act of voting. I exclude voting because it would be misleading to include it. All of the 75 respondents, except for one, checked that they did vote in the 2004 presidential election. The one respondent who did not vote was anomalous to the overall trend, affecting the data set disproportionately because the N is so small. The second and third dependent variables I use are measures of electoral and non-electoral participation. The second dependent variable is an index of electoral political participation. This index includes the political activities measured in the NBISS that are linked to the electoral process: (1) taking part in the organization of a voter-registration or other political drive in the past 5 years, (2) volunteering in a political campaign in the past 5 years, and (3) donating to a political campaign in the past 5 years. The final dependent variable is an index of non-electoral political participation. This index21 includes the activities that are external to the electoral process, but still influence government and civic society: (1) engagement in a rally or march in the past 5 years, (2) writing a letter to a politician in the past 5 years, (3) some level of engagement in community service

I intend this type of participation to mirror the “protest” activities to which Bayard Rustin refers. For Rustin, protest is defined by private, non-electoral political acts, often undertaken to bring about black advancement.


in the past year, and (4) membership in a black advancement organization, such as the NAACP or the National Urban League – organizations that are political yet outside of the electoral political process. The main independent variable of analysis is membership in an elite black social organization, defined as being a member of either Boulé or Links. In chapter 5, I split up the independent variable in order to test H2 and H3, which requires a look at the independent effects of being a member of each organization separately. In the first analysis, in which membership is defined as membership in both organizations, men and women are pooled and analyzed together. When I split up the membership variable, I also separate the data by gender. In addition to this main independent variable, I employ up to 8 control variables, depending on the regression being run. These 8 control variables are: gender (male), education, household income, working status (working or not), American parents (parents born in the United States or not), black advancement organization (member or not), non-racial organization (member or not), and church (extent of membership). The first four control variables are the most oftincluded variables in any model of political participation. Several empirical studies (McKenzie 2007; Verba et al. 1995; Tate 1994) have shown the importance of including these variables in the analysis, as they often correlate highly with both the dependent and main independent variable of analysis. However, the other four control variables, included in the analysis in order to control for potentially confounding (lurking or explanatory) factors, are not employed as often in other models.

The other four control variables require a little more explanation than the first four. American parents is a necessary control variable as it is a pre-adult influence that could have a great effect on the political behavior of individuals and on the likelihood of an individual to join a black social organization (Rogers 2001; Waters 2000). While my data only contains 3 individuals who marked that either they or their parents were immigrants, it is important to note that such status could have a great impact on one’s understanding of politics, willingness to engage in the political process and interest in black organizations like Boulé and Links. Black advancement organization is another control variable. This variable, though not as related to membership in Boulé and Links as one may expect (see Table 4.1), is important to include because of the highly political nature of such organizations. Further, like other institutions, these organizations could serve to provide the civic and political skills/interest that increase one’s likelihood of political participation. Similar to the black advancement organization variable is the non-racial organization variable. This variable includes any civic or social organizations that are not focused on black issues particularly. In other words, these are the voluntary organizations that Verba et al. (1995) and Putnam (2001) study. Because of their noted effect on political participation from these authors and because of their relationship with general black organizations (McKenzie 2007), this variable is quite pertinent to this analysis. The last variable, church, measures the extent of involvement that an individual has in his/her church. For many scholars, the church is the heart of black politics (Dawson 1994; Harris 1999; Harris 1994; Harris-Lacewell 2004; McAdam 1982; Owens 2007; Tate

1994). Most likely this centrality is changing for high-SES and present-day blacks. Nevertheless, no black participatory model would be complete without this control variable. One obvious variable that is missing from these control variables is age. The age of the survey respondent has also been found to be an important variable in explaining participation (Schlozman, Page, Verba and Fiorina 2005); yet, I was unable to include it in my analysis because of data limitations.22 The lack of this variable may present some limitations for my data, but the lack of it is not as detrimental as it could be for two reasons. First, the individuals who make up the organizations of Links and Boulé are, with near-certainty, between the ages of 4070. While there may be a few outliers, the requirements of membership provide a very reliable basis for this assumption. This age range, according to Schlozman et al. (2005), is the least variable age range with regard to difference in the mean number of political acts in which individuals engage. While from the age of 18 to the age of 40 the mean number increases by 1.28, the difference in the mean number from the age of 40 to the age of 70 is a mere .19 (Schlozman et al. 2005, 39). Second, I was able to include a question about age in the second phase of the NBISS research (as stated above, this phase collected data from the control group). The respondents in the control group are all within the 40-70 age range, so age is held relatively constant.

In my creation of the NBISS, I failed to include a question regarding age in the surveys that were sent to those who are members of Boulé and Links. For those who were of the control group, I added in a question that asked for the age of the respondent; however, this variable cannot be used in my analysis because there is no way of determining the age of each member respondent. I can only determine the range of ages in which the overwhelming majority of members fall.


While most studies on participation include some variation of the variables described above, the CVM takes the analysis a step further by looking at the micro-level mechanisms that derive from these variables. Verba et al. term these the “participatory factors.” These factors include such variables as civic skills, political interest, political information, and political recruitment. Verba et al. find that these factors are found in mainstream civic organizations. Because the NBISS does not ask questions that would be able to measure these factors, it is sufficient to use the main control variables listed earlier (as the factors theoretically derive from these variables). If any of the variables have a positive effect on participation, the participatory factors are, theoretically, one of the avenues through which this relationship occurs. Still, in chapter 6, I look to qualitative results to see if these participatory factors are in fact the mechanisms used by elite black social organizations to bring about whatever effect that is observed. For the NBES data, I employ similar techniques with regard to control variables. When using the NBES data to test H1, I use the same major control variables, such as household income and church involvement. The methodology used for the NBES data analysis is described in further detail in chapter 4. Finally, I should quickly state that the limitations involved in statistical analysis have been taken into account in this study. There are several possible threats to external validity (omitted variable bias, the use of linearity even if the function is not linear, errors-in-variables from misunderstandings or poorlyworded questions and, as stated above, sample selection bias). I have attempted to

mitigate these threats in a variety of ways, including the use of several control variables and the comparison of my data to a national data set. Further, I understand that the Nashville-based focus of my study also provides threats to external validity. Nevertheless, I have also tried to show how this threat is mitigated. Moreover, I incorporate qualitative data in chapter 6 in order to add yet another element of defense against the possible misinterpretations from faulty data. As a rule, I approach the findings from this study cautiously and with cautious conclusions, ever aware of the limitations involved in statistical analysis.

A Note on Causality The data used is cross-sectional, observational data garnered from surveys; as a result, even after running regressions to estimate the relationship between my main independent variable of concern (membership) and my main dependent variables (indexical measures of traditional, electoral, and non-electoral forms of participation), I cannot infer a causal relationship. All that will be relatively certain is the magnitude and direction of the correlation. The technical and statistical considerations involved in hypothesizing a causal relationship will be dealt with in detail in chapter 6. The theoretical considerations have already been presented in the beginning of this chapter. Theoretically, past studies and theories regarding organizational influence on political participation have suggested that if there is a significant relationship, it runs from membership to participation, not the reverse.


Still, there are theoretical reasons to believe that at least two other causal flows may be present. First, an individual may be chosen to be a part of these organizations because they are already active participators. The elite organizations may choose individuals who are prominent, active and vocal to become members. In this sense, political participation (through networks where individuals are visible) causes people to be invited to join. Second, complementing this causal direction is self-selection. It could be that individuals who choose to be part of these organizations choose to do so because they are politically active individuals. In slightly different terms, their reasons for accepting an invitation to join could be that some external factor makes them active in both the political process and the process of joining organizations. It is likely that causality does not flow in one direction; instead, there may be simultaneous directions that interact with and reinforce one another. Because this issue of causality is quite important to this investigation, I return to these theories again in the second half of chapter 6. Much of that chapter is devoted to looking at the in-depth interviews of archons and links to determine what causal directions and mechanisms appear to be the strongest.


MEMBERSHIP AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION Through analyses of both NBISS and NBES data, I look to see the effect that elite black social organizations have on the traditional political participation of high-SES blacks in order to test H1. The NBISS data is the main data set of my analysis; however, I use the NBES data set in order to confirm the validity of my results and see if my results are applicable nationally, as it is a national data set with a larger sample size. This chapter is concerned with the more traditional forms of political participation in order to see if these elite black social organizations even have an impact on what is ordinarily considered to encapsulate the political process. Later in chapters 5 and 6, I turn to a discussion of the differences between electoral and non-electoral participation, among other analyses.

Members are Active Participators


The NBISS data reveals that members of Sigma Pi Phi and the Links, Inc. are quite similar demographically to high-SES non-members. Because the NBISS data was collected in order to survey only blacks considered to be high-SES (annual household income levels at or above the $60,000-$80,000 USD 2007 range and attainment of at least an associate’s degree), the summary statistics presented in Table 4.1 compare individuals who are more or less similar on all demographic factors. The main difference is whether or not they are members of Boulé or Links. This method of data collection strengthens any significant results that I find from my analysis of the difference between those who are members and those who are not, for many common independent variables (like income and education) are held constant. Table 4.1 shows an interesting trend with regard to those who are members of either Boulé or Links and those who are not. It appears that those who are members tend to be more involved in other institutions like the church and non-racial organizations. This finding may suggest either that membership in these organizations encourages membership in other organizations or simply that these outside factors may contribute to why certain high-SES blacks tend to be members of institutions and others do not. For these reasons and because of previous theoretical and empirical research on these affiliations, I include these threats to causality in my models as control variables.23


Noticeably, I do not include other control variables in my analysis that appear to vary between members and non-members. These variables include the racial composition of one’s workplace and the racial make-up of one’s closest friends. These variables are not included because (1) there is little theoretical or empirical literature that would suggest their inclusion, (2) they do not vary as many of the other variables that are included in the controls and (3) even when they are included


NBISS Descriptive Data: Demographics and Affiliations (in percentages).
Member of either Boulé or Links N=66 Demographics Gender ( male) Annual Household Income ($100,000+ in USD 2007) Education (with graduate degree or higher) Organizational Affiliations Jack and Jill (members as children) Black Advancement Organizations (members) Non-racial Organizations (members) Church (those who attend once a week or more) Black Fraternity (members) Social Networks Work in a majority white workplace Work in a majority black workplace Have majority black friends Extent of Involvement in Boule/Links Participate in at least 3 distinct activities Member for > 25 years

NonMemb. N=9

Boulé Memb. N= 28

Links Memb. N= 38

42.42 81.54 77.27

44.44 87.5 77.78

100 96.43 82.14

0 70.27 73.68

13.64 66.67 83.33 65.15 69.7

11.11 66.67 66.67 44.44 55.56

3.57 75 75 50 64.29

21.06 60.53 89.47 76.31 73.68

51.85 24.07 84.85

44.44 33.33 77.78

42.86 28.57 75

61.54 19.23 92.11

46.97 23.44


39.29 11.11

52.63 32.43

Politically, members are also more active than non-members, which would appear to confirm the main thesis of the CVM. Table 4.2 reveals summary statistical findings that would suggest that the CVM would hold. There is suggestive evidence that there is something about being a member of these two black social organizations that correlates with political participation. These

in all of the regression analyses run, they prove insignificant and do not affect the significance level of the membership variable.


members are active with regard to voting. Although a slightly larger percentage of non-members voted in the 2004 presidential election, the results are basically the same. The reason why members who voted is 98% instead of 100% is because one survey respondent did not vote. Despite this one individual, the trend is clear: high-SES blacks (both members and non-members) report extremely high voter participation rates.24 The participation rates in the other 5 traditional political activities that the NBISS measured reveal that members are just as or more active than non-members in 4 out of 5 of the political acts. None of the non-members have engaged in a political rally or march within the past 5 years, while 62% of members have. About 10% more of the members have written a letter to their politician within the past 5 years. With regard to organizing a voter registration or other political drive within the timeframe of 5 years, members and non-members are roughly the same. Like engagement in political rallies/marches, no nonmembers volunteered in a political campaign within the past 5 years, but a good number of members (29%) had. The final act of political participation, donating to a political campaign, does not follow the expectations of social organizational membership and its


When reporting self-described voter participation rates, much political science literature has shown that people tend to over-report their voting habits because there is a social expectation that voting is a civic duty. The over-reporting of voting, however, should not be a problem for this project for two reasons. First, the proportion of over-reporting should be the same for those who are members and those who are non-members. Because my comparison of their political participation rates is relative and not absolute, there should be no statistical problem. Second, the NBISS was an anonymous, mail-in survey. Because the respondents were not answering the questions of an interviewer, there is no social expectation or judgment implicit in the respondents’ answering of each survey question. Thus, there’s no rational reason to lie about one’s extent of voter (or other form of) participation.


NBISS Political Participation of Members and Non-Members.
Type of Political Participation within past 5 years Presidential Vote (2004 Election) Rally/March Letter to Politician Voter Registration or other Political Drive Volunteer in a Political Campaign Donate to a Political Campaign Member (% yes) 98% 62% 43% 11% 29% 91% NonMember (% yes) 100% 0% 33% 11% 0% 100%

effect on political participation. Unlike with the other descriptive findings, a significant number of non-members were more active on this measure than members were. While 100% of non-members donated to a political campaign within the past 5 years, just 91% of members donated to a political campaign. Unlike voting, the difference between members and non-members is more substantial. Six of the 66 members surveyed responded that they did not donate to a political campaign, suggesting that this result may not be a simple anomaly. While it may be that membership in these black social organizations provides negative incentives for donating, it may also be that income is a large explanatory variable of donating to political campaigns. Because the annual household income of members is slightly lower than that of non-members, this variable may be able to explain why it appears that membership in a social organization is negatively correlated with political donations. While these descriptive findings, overall, appear to confirm an organizational effect on participation, such an effect cannot be determined

without controlling for other, potentially confounding variables. In the next section, I use OLS regression analysis to determine the independent relationship between membership and participation. I use the traditional index of political participation described in chapter 3. This index’s correlation with membership is 0.18. While the correlation is of a small magnitude, it is large enough to be certain that the relationship is positive. Regression analysis will help to find out just exactly what membership means regarding one’s level of traditional political participation.

OLS Regression Analysis of NBISS Data In order to test H1, which states that membership in an elite black social organization should have a positive effect on the political participation (as traditionally defined) of a member, I employ OLS regression analysis of the NBISS data set. First, I run an analysis on the dependent variable (index of traditional political participation) and use the four standard control variables. Through this analysis, I develop my baseline model of traditional political participation. In this baseline model, the four standard control variables are: gender (male), household income, education, and working status. Table 4.3 reveals the results of OLS regression analysis of the baseline model of traditional political participation. Being a member increases an individual’s political participation by nearly one full political act. From this baseline model, it appears that the relationship predicted in H1 is correct. Of the independent variables in the model, membership is the only variable that is

Predicting Traditional Political Participation: NBISS Baseline Model.
Independent Variables Member Gender (Male) Education Household Income Working Status Constant R2 =0.09 N = 73 * Significant at .1 level ** Significant at .05 level *** Significant at .01 level
Note: “Traditional Political Participation” is an index of the political acts of (1) rally/march, (2) writing a letter, (3) voterregistration/other drive, (4) political campaign volunteer, and (5) donating to a campaign. Each act is given equal weight.

Regression Coefficient (Robust Standard Errors) .71 **(.31) .44 (.28) - .19 (.31) - .29 (.20) .29 (.40) 2.13** (.86)

statistically significant at the .05 level. While this model predicts that membership in an elite black social organization increases the political participation of the individual, this model only explains 9% of the variability in the dependent variable of political participation. It appears that there may be other factors that go into determining the extent of an individual’s activity in the political process. From a look at the several factors included in the CVM, it appears that other variables, like religious affiliations, community affiliations, and other types of networks should be included in the model. Thus, I employ an expanded model of political participation that includes the four other independent control variables described in chapter 3.


Table 4.4 shows the results of the OLS regression of the expanded model for political participation. In this expanded model, I include the four other control variables: American parents, black advancement organization, non-racial organization, and church. Immediately, it appears that the model is better than the baseline model. The explanatory power of the model with regard to traditional participation is nearly 50% greater than the baseline model. In other words, the control variables are able to help explain why the respondents participate. Nevertheless, the membership variable remains statistically significant at the .05 level, suggesting that whatever confounding effect these variables have is low. Among these respondents, the greatest determinant of one’s level of participation is membership in an elite black social organization, specifically Sigma Pi Phi or the Links, Inc. In fact, no other variable is significant in the expanded model. At first glance, this result is surprising; however, the lack of variability in the main control variables (education, income and working status) could help to explain this finding. The NBISS data was collected among high-SES black Americans who are quite similar with regard to demographic features. The general directions of these non-significant variables, though, are largely in their expected direction of effect on the dependent variable. Past studies have shown that men are more active than women (Verba et al. 1995; Schlozman et al. 2005) and that membership in black advancement organizations, non-racial organizations and the church should be positively related with participation. The three variables that were surprising, however, were: education, household income, and working










(insignificantly) with lower levels of participation, whereas individuals who work participate more often. Again, these results are insignificant and are most likely explained due to a lack of variability in the data. TABLE 4.4
Predicting Traditional Political Participation: NBISS Expanded Model.
Regression Coefficient (Robust Standard Error)

Independent Variables

Member Gender (Male) Education Household Income Working Status American Parents Black Advancement Organization Non-racial Organization Church R2 = .13 N = 62 * Significant at .1 level ** Significant at .05 level *** Significant at .01 level

.69**(.31) .50 (.32) - .10 (.36) -.29 (.21) .38 (.43) .26 (.41) .18 (.25) .34 (.23) .10 (.13)

Note: “Traditional Political Participation” is an index of the political acts of (1) rally/march, (2) writing a letter, (3) voter-registration/other drive, (4) political campaign volunteer, and (5) donating to a campaign. Each act is given equal weight.

A more important result of the expanded model is that membership in elite black social organizations has a greater effect on traditional political participation for these high-SES blacks than membership in a black advancement organization or a mainstream civic or social organization does. This finding contradicts the

theoretical narratives provided by literature on the black elite and on black political participatory behavior. Contrary to the assumptions of literature based upon the black church and black advancement organizations, these black public spaces may not be the most relevant in defining the participation of high-SES blacks. Further, these findings suggest that the criticisms of black elites provided by sociologists like E. Franklin Frazier and Williams (2001) may be misguided. These elites, aided by their social organizations, participate quite actively. But from this expanded model, alone, the hypotheses of Frazier and Williams cannot be completely disproven. While these blacks participate, it must be determined whether or not the relationship identified in this model is causal, what type of participation they engage in (electoral or non-electoral or both), and whether or not the participation is partly based upon a commitment to black advancement. In chapters 5 and 6, through an analysis of H2 and H3, I begin to answer these questions. Before moving to chapter 5, I turn first to the NBES data set to see if these results are in any way external to the specific elite black social organizations I studied and specific respondents I surveyed.

OLS Regression Analysis of NBES Data While the NBISS data provides a picture of the difference between members and non-members of specific elite black social organizations in Nashville, Tennessee, the NBES provides a picture of members and non-members – but in a much broader way. Because the NBES is a national data set, OLS


regression analysis will help to confirm whether or not the trends found in the NBISS data are also visible nationally. The NBES replication is not without its limitations, however. The dependent variable of analysis that I employ through this data set is not the same as the dependent variable used in the NBISS. In the NBES, the only question about membership in a black organization asks if one is a member of “any organization working to improve the status of black Americans.” Thus, the independent variable could include several types of black organizations – not just elite black social organizations. While the over-breadth that I highlight as problematic for the NBES’s membership variable is similar to the same over-breadth I criticize in the CVM, the NBES variable is still particular to and appropriate for the aims of this thesis for a couple reasons. First, narrowing down the type of organization from any voluntary, civic or religious organization (which is used in the CVM) to an exclusively black organization (to be used in the NBES analysis) is important. While many of the claims I make in this thesis have to do with the “elite” and “social” elements of elite black social organizations, other claims that I make have to do only with the “black” element of these organizations. In chapter 2, I provided several reasons why it is necessary to study black organizations in general, not just elite black social organizations. Second, it must be taken into account that I am also interested in high-SES blacks more generally. While I cannot narrow down the NBES data to look only at black social organizations, I can (and do) limit the NBES data to look only at high-SES blacks.

As with the NBISS data set, I use OLS regression analysis to determine the effect of membership in a black organization on political participation. The measure of political participation I use in this analysis is similar to the index of traditional political participation employed in the NBISS data analysis. The NBES’s index of traditional political participation includes: (1) the act of donating or raising money for a campaign, (2) the act of protesting/demonstrating, (3) voting in the 1992 presidential election, (4) the act of working for a party or political campaign, and (5) the act of writing a public official. These 5 acts are the same acts included in the NBISS index, except for the act of organizing a voterregistration or other political drive, which was not asked in the NBES. Also, the NBES index includes voting. I include voting because it is a crucial feature of any index of political participation, and unlike the NBISS data set, the NBES data set has a greater amount of variation on this measure of political participation. I begin with an analysis of the baseline model of traditional political participation. Table 4.5 shows that the membership variable has a large, statistically significant (at the .01 level) effect on the political participation of individuals. Those who are members of these organizations participate in over one more political act than those who are not members. Table 4.6 reveals that even after including the control variables of membership in a community organization and membership in a church (two variables that, as noted above, have been hypothesized and shown to have a great influence on political participation), the


Predicting Traditional Political Participation: NBES Baseline Model.
Regression Coefficient (Robust Standard Error)

Independent Variables

Member of Black Organization Age Gender (Male) Education Income Working Status Adjusted R2 = .24 N = 42 * Significant at .1 level ** Significant at .05 level *** Significant at .01 level

1.10***(.36) .39*(.20) .54*(.32) .34 (.36) .14 (.14) - .31 (.54)

Note: “Traditional Political Participation” is slightly different for the NBES model. This variable is an index of the political acts of (1) donating to a political campaign, (2) protesting/ demonstrating, (3) voting, (4) working on a political campaign, and (5) writing a letter.

effect of membership in a black organization remains.25 Those who are members engage in nearly one more act than those who are non-members. This relationship holds after controlling for several control variables that are correlated with both participation and membership in a black organization. While this finding does not, and cannot, confirm H1, it does provide suggestive evidence that H1 not only holds for individuals in the Links and Boulé of Nashville, TN, but also for individuals in elite black social organizations

These two control variables are roughly equivalent to the control variables of church and nonracial organization added in the NBISS analysis. I could not include the other control variables included in the NBISS (American parents and black advancement organization) because parent’s country of origin was not asked and the black advancement organization variable is being used in the NBES analysis as the main independent variable.


Predicting Traditional Political Participation: NBES Expanded Model.
Regression Coefficient (Robust Standard Error)

Independent Variables

Member of Black Organization Age Gender (Male) Education Income Currently Working Community Organization Church Adjusted R2 = .32 N = 42 * Significant at .1 level ** Significant at .05 level *** Significant at .01 level

.91**(.35) .33*(.18) .66**(.29) .22 (.35) .22 (.14) - .36 (.44) .79***(.28) .15*(.08)

Note: “Traditional Political Participation” is slightly different for the NBES model. This variable is an index of the political acts of (1) donating to a political campaign, (2) protesting/ demonstrating, (3) voting, (4) working on a political campaign, and (5) writing a letter.

throughout the United States. To add greater legitimacy to this conclusion, it should be noted that the magnitude of the coefficient is greater than the magnitude of the membership coefficient in the NBISS model. Because the membership variable in the NBES most likely includes affiliation with elite black social organizations (as someone who is just a member of an elite social organization would respond “yes” to whether or not they are a member of “an organization working to improve the status of black Americans”), the effect of Boulé and Links is included in this variable. This inclusion suggests that the NBES membership


variable should have a greater effect than the NBISS membership variable – which it does. The data appear to confirm the trends that I have found in the NBISS data regarding organizations and the black upper-class; yet, to ensure that this finding accurately portrays middle class blacks, I alter my definition of what it means to be a member of the high-SES black community. As noted in the data sources section of chapter 3, the NBES high-SES group is scaled down from the larger NBES respondent group in three ways – by income (must have a household income of $50,000 USD 1996), by education (must have attained an associates degree or higher) and by age (must be between the ages of 40-70). This high-SES group, which I will now refer to as “High-SES(Income and Education),” was used in my data analysis above. In order to test whether or not different definitions of middle class result in the same findings, I run OLS regression analysis of HighSES(Income), which is limited only with regard to income and age, and HighSES(Education), which is limited only with regard to education and age. In other words, High-SES(Income) includes all respondents who made above $50,000 USD 1996 and are between the ages of 40-70, while High-SES(Education) includes all respondents who attained above an associates degree and are between the ages of 40-70. A descriptive look at the levels of household income and education of the 3 different sample groups from the NBES (provided in Table 4.7, located in Appendix A) reveals two noteworthy observations. First, each of these three groups contains considerable concentrations of individuals in the bottom levels of

income and education. This finding is especially true for High-SES(Income) and High-SES(Education) and not as true for High-SES(Income and Education), which is the original group I used. Nationally, a small proportion of black Americans (and non-black Americans, alike) are in the highest levels of education and household income. From this descriptive look, it also becomes evident that for black Americans, the combined role that income and education play in the likelihood of an individual being part of a black advancement organization is considerable. 69% of those in the most exclusive group – High-SES(Income and Education) – are members of such organizations, whereas the less exclusive groups (Income) and (Education) contain 57% and 61%, respectively, of individuals who are members. In order to be sure the results from the NBES are not biased by my definition of what it means to be a high-SES black American, I run OLS multivariate regressions on High-SES(Income) and High-SES(Education) using the same expanded model used in the analysis of the original High-SES group. Table 4.8 shows all three groups’ results side by side for ease of comparison. It is evident from the results that the strong correlation between membership in a black organization and political participation is not anomalous. Each group’s regression coefficient is positive and at least marginally significant.26 Another note of interest has to do with the magnitude differences between the three groups. While High-SES(Income and Education) has the highest

High-SES(Income)’s coefficient is significant at the .11 level, just barely outside of the p-value necessary for significance. It should be noted that in the baseline model (which is not shown in Table 4.8) the p-value for this coefficient is at the .05 level.


Predicting Traditional Political Participation: NBES Expanded Models for Each High-SES Group.
Income and Education group Regression Coefficient (Robust Standard Error) .91**(.35) .33*(.18) .66**(.29) .22 (.35) .22 (.14) - .36 (.44) .79***(.28) Education group Regression Coefficient (Robust Standard Error) .85***(.24) .34**(.15) - .22 (.25) .11 (.26) .06 (.04) .30 (.38) .48*(.25)

Income group Regression Coefficient (Robust Standard Error) .44 (.27) .42***(.16) - .11 (.24) .22 (.16) .17*(.10) - .84**(.41) .87***(.25)

Independent Variables Member of Black Organization Age Gender (Male) Education Household Income Currently Working Member of Community Organization Church

.15*(.08) Adj R2 = .32 N = 42

.12 (.08) Adj R2 = .33 N = 74

.14*(.07) Adj R2 = .18 N = 98

* Significant at .1 level ** Significant at .05 level *** Significant at .01 level
Note: “Traditional Political Participation” is slightly different for the NBES model. This variable is an index of the political acts of (1) donating to a political campaign, (2) protesting/ demonstrating, (3) voting, (4) working on a political campaign, and (5) writing a letter.

magnitude and significance level (followed closely by High-SES[Education]), High-SES(Income) has a relatively moderate magnitude and only fair significance level. It appears that the better educated and well-off a black American is, the greater the correlation between his/her membership in black organizations and

his/her level of political participation. Further, High-SES(Income) respondents have a greater correlation between membership in community organizations (those that are non-racial and similar to the voluntary organizations described in the CVM) and political participation. This appears to suggest that education has some sort of influence on the way in which blacks engage in black organizations. Perhaps better-educated black Americans (the “faultless prophets” to which Archon Julian referred) gain their civic skills and political interest through black groups, while those who are either less educated or simply high-SES because of higher income levels, gain their civic skills and political interest through mainstream civic/voluntary organizations. From these results, there is suggestive evidence that the NBISS results are applicable to and representative of the effect of membership in elite black social organizations around the country, not just in the Nashville, Tennessee area. Those who are members of Boulé and Links in New York are probably just as active compared to non-member high-SES blacks as those who are members in California. Of course, it cannot be overstated that extrapolating the NBES results to elite black social organizations must be done cautiously. While the NBES evidence is very credible for general black organizations and high-SES black Americans in general, this evidence is only suggestive with regard to links and archons. Still, after re-defining “high-SES” three different ways and comparing the NBES results to the NBISS results, the evidence is consistent and flows in one direction.


What can be taken away with far greater certainty from this analysis of the NBES data is the relationship between black middle class status, general black organizational membership and political participation. The middle class blacks who have high levels of income and education derive more from organizational membership in black advancement organizations. They derive slightly more than those who only have high levels of education and lower levels of income; and, they derive a great amount more than those who have high levels of household income and lower levels of education. Even more noteworthy is that being involved in mainstream community organizations provides a greater amount of political participation than being involved in a black advancement organization for the High-SES(Income) group. For blacks who are solidly part of the middle/upper class through both high levels of education and high levels of income (High-SES[Income and Education]), however, being a member of a black advancement organization provides a much greater influence upon their political participation than does being a member of a mainstream community organization. And still, these individuals’ involvement through community organizations also results in even greater political participation than that of the High-SES(Education) group. The members of the High-SES(Income and Education) group are solidly active in both the black community and also the white community – where they, ostensibly, serve as middle-men for black interests. These findings not only add complexity to the CVM, but also they show that the most elite of black Americans derive more participatory behavior and engagement from black organizational membership than do moderately well-off black Americans. The criticisms of the

black elite provided by Frazier and Williams appear to be based upon faulty assumptions.

Conclusion From the NBISS data, it appears that membership in elite black social organizations has a statistically significant, positive effect on political participation. After controlling for several variables, members of these organizations are more likely to participate than non-members. While the effect of membership on political participation may not be a direct effect because of the exclusion of variables that would measure participatory factors such as civic skills and interest in politics, it is evident that these participatory factors would have their effect through membership in Boulé and Links, if the causal mechanisms theorized by Verba et al. are correct and if the direction of causality flows from membership to participation. Further, as evidenced both by the NBISS analysis and also the NBES analysis, there is evidence that despite these participatory factors, there is something about black organizations that make high-SES blacks more active than do either mainstream civic/social organizations or black advancement organizations like the NAACP and the National Urban League. These organizations have a greater effect on high-SES blacks than do mainstream voluntary organizations (especially) and black advancement organizations (secondarily, when looking at the NBISS data). Finally, the last take away from the NBES analysis is that the black elite are far more active and involved in black advancement than several theorists have assumed.

DIFFERENT ORGANIZATIONS, DIFFERENT TYPES OF PARTICIPATION Organizational models of political participation tend to make two major assumptions. First, and most commonly, these models measure organizational membership in broad terms. As noted in chapter 3, the CVM’s measurement of membership includes several types of voluntary organizations that could not be expected to have the same type, magnitude, or even direction of effect on political participation that the results in the model assume they do. Second, several of these organizational models assume that a summary measure of political participation is sufficient to study the effect that organizations have on members’ participation. A not insignificant number of models do not make this assumption; yet, they also do not account for the electoral and non-electoral dichotomy on which I focus here.27


While Verba et al. (1995) mainly focus on an index of broad measures of participation, they do divide up the political acts to understand the effect of organizational membership on each act independently (358, 397, 404, 446). However, these models do not look at the differences between electoral and non-electoral activities. Further, a few acts that I include in my indices are not a part of any of the indices in the Verba et al. models. Frederick C. Harris’s Something Within: Religion


Below, I proceed to rethink models of organizational influence on political participation by parsing these two major assumptions. First, I take apart the NBISS membership dependent variable into its constituent parts (membership in the Links, Inc. on the one hand and membership in Sigma Pi Phi on the other). Second, I divide up and add to the traditional index of political participation, developing two new indices – one for electoral political participation and the other for non-electoral political participation. From the first process, I will be able to test H2, in which I hypothesize that Links brings about more active participators (participation here will still be defined using the traditional index of political participation) than Boulé. From the second process, I will be able to test H3, in which I hypothesize that membership in elite black social organizations will have a greater effect on a member’s non-electoral participation than on his/her electoral participation.

Boulé and Links: Separate Institutions with Separate Effects To test H2, I separate the NBISS data by membership in Boulé and membership in Links. Because Boulé and Links are gendered organizations, this process simply involved dividing the sample by gender. All respondents who were female (which included 38 Links respondents and 5 control group
in African-American Political Activism is probably the piece of scholarship that most closely looks at non-electoral participation as its own mode of activity. However, his definition of “protest” (or non-electoral) action is more anti-authoritarian than mine. He defines protest-demand modes of activism as “direct action, organized around specific political goals, either protesting measures that produce harm or demanding measures that produce good” (Harris 1994, 52). Further, his index of protest-demand measures the activity of blacks in 1966. I do not intend to engage in such a historical analysis. Contemporary protest, I argue, is based upon rallies/protesting, community service/engagement and other indirect ways of influencing government.


respondents) were part of the Links analysis. All respondents who were male (which included 28 Boulé respondents and 4 control group respondents) were part of the Boulé analysis.28 Prior to looking to the data analysis, it must be noted that the findings could reflect gender differences just as much as they could reflect differences in the organizations of Boulé and Links. Because there are no men in Links and there are no women in Boulé, there is seemingly no way to be sure how much of the difference between members of these organizations should be attributed to the institutional mechanisms of the organization or the participatory differences between men and women. As noted in some previous literature (Verba et al. 1995) and through my own data analysis of the NBES (Table 4.6), being a female (after controlling for several variables) has a significantly negative relationship with participation. However, other literature (Harris 1994) and my NBISS analysis have found gender to be insignificantly related to participation. Ultimately, the results that come from dividing up the two organizations can be viewed as mainly reflective of organizational differences, but will be viewed as organizational differences informed by gender. While gender is perfectly related to membership in each organization, gender most likely does not have a relationship with whatever participatory mechanisms (if they exist) are a part of the organizational context. Verba et al. (1995) find that gender is unrelated

Again, the control groups are small and non-random. However, as provided above, I employ several techniques to make sure the control group is reasonably representative. Also, the potential for omitted variable bias (due to there being unobserved characteristics as to why some individuals choose to accept an invitation to be in Boulé or Links and some do not) is real; however, I mitigate the likelihood of this assumption in the latter half of chapter 6.


to the participatory factors they study; men and women are affected in generally the same ways. However, this same result cannot be proven from the data presented here; in fact, some of the mechanisms that I hypothesize to be part of elite black social organizations (such as the mechanism of group consciousness) could certainly be related to gender. As a result, I proceed to interpret my findings in gendered terms. Thus, if I find that Links membership significantly relates to participation, I only conclude that Links membership has a positive relationship for women, not for any person.29 Having explained this caveat, I turn to the results. The results presented in Table 5.1 confirm the underlying premise of H2, but negate the hypothesis overall. The premise that different organizations – even if they are very similar – have different influences on their members’ political participation holds. The results reveal that Links and Boulé (two elite black social organizations) have different relationships to participation (again, perhaps partly due to differences in the way in which each gender interacts with organizational mechanisms). Membership in Boulé correlates with men being more politically active than Links membership does with women. While both the baseline and expanded models of participation for Boulé reveal that membership in the organization


The regression analysis of each organization compares members of each organization to nonmembers of their same gender. Thus, the comparison, for example, is not between women in Links and all non-Links members; rather, it is between women in Links and all female non-members. Therefore, the conclusion described here can be drawn. Any relationship found with regard to Links is explanatory for women, but not necessarily for men. The larger point is that gender cannot be chosen; thus, the goal is to find out whether or not being a member of Links or Boulé can influence participation in addition to any negative or positive effect that gender has on participatory behavior.


Predicting Traditional Political Participation for Each Organization: NBISS Baseline and Expanded Models for Boulé and Links.

Boulé (Men)
Baseline Model Regression Coefficient (Robust Standard Error) Expanded Model Regression Coefficient (Robust Standard Error)

Links (Women)
Baseline Model Regression Coefficient (Robust Standard Error) Expanded Model Regression Coefficient (Robust Standard Error)

Independent Variables

Member Education Household Income Working Status₁ American Parents Black Advancement Organization Non-racial Organization Church Constant

1.08***(.46) - .02 (.61) .17 (.15) (dropped) ---

.90*(.48) .30 (.75) - .17 (.30) (dropped) .76*(.37) - .09 (.53)

.35 (.44) - .30 (.36) - .37*(.22) .28 (.41) ---

.22 (.44) - .42 (.41) - .43*(.22) .25 (.41) - .65*(.34) .35 (.34)


.57 (.48)


- .00 (.28)

-.60 (.89)

.23 (.24) .23 (1.16)


- .11 (.16) 4.02***(1.47)

R = .08 N = 32 * Significant at .10 level ** Significant at .05 level *** Significant at .01 level

R = .17 N = 32

R = .11 N=41

R = .15 N=41

1: The independent variable working status is dropped in the Boulé models because all member respondents and control group respondents answered “yes” to whether or not he currently works. Note: “Traditional Political Participation” is an index of the political acts of (1) rally/march, (2) writing a letter, (3) voter-registration/other drive, (4) political campaign volunteer, and (5) donating to a campaign. Each act is given equal weight.

correlates significantly with greater levels of traditional political participation, neither the baseline nor expanded models of participation for Links reveal that

membership has any relation to this form of participation. The coefficient for Boulé suggests that membership encourages nearly one more political act. For Links, the coefficient is far smaller (.35 in the baseline model and .22 when additional control variables are included). The results not only serve to disprove H2 as a whole, but also the results serve to question H1’s applicability to all types of elite black social organizations. However, because of the overwhelming evidence (past literature/theoretical evidence presented in chapters 2 and 3, empirical evidence from NBISS data in chapter 4, and empirical evidence from NBES data in chapter 4), this result does not doom H1. Instead, these results imply that in the case of the Links, Inc. membership does not have a relationship with a traditional index of political participation. That said, the coefficients are in the positive direction, which was hypothesized. The lack of statistical significance could simply be a result of the small sample size. Even if this attribution to the sample size is inconsequential, the findings are certain in their comparative nature. Comparatively, being a member of Boulé increases one’s traditional modes of political participation to a greater extent for men than being a member of Links does for women. While H2 has been proven incorrect, the evidence from this analysis serves to confirm another premise of my study – the CVM is incomplete. This evidence that links and archons have different relationships to the measure of traditional political participation provides empirical data to show that looking at an aggregate measure of membership to predict the dependent variable (traditional participation) is not particularly useful. Like the CVM, I originally measured a

broader notion of membership, including membership in both Boulé and Links. From this broader analysis, it originally appeared that membership in all types of elite black social organizations had a significant influence on traditional participation. However, when I divided up the membership variable, I found that only membership in one organization has a significant effect, while membership in another does not.

The Varieties of Political Participation (Electoral and Non-Electoral) In H3, I predict that membership in an elite black social organization will have a greater effect on activities that involve non-electoral politics than on those that involve electoral politics. This hypothesis derives from two theoretical assumptions. First, different types of political acts require different types of resources and political skills. Donating to a political campaign involves political interest and economic resources, while participating in a march requires social networks and recruitment mechanisms. The CVM finds that organizational membership significantly influences all the participatory factors – civic skills, civic vocabulary, recruitment, political interest and political information (Verba et al. 1995, 434); however, these resources are affected to varying degrees. I hypothesize that membership in elite black social organizations affects the participatory factors of civic skills, political interest and political recruitment the most and results in members being more likely to influence non-electoral activity to a further extent than electoral activity.


My second theoretical assumption has to do with the racial bonding that most likely takes place in these all-black organizations. I suspect that participation in black social organizations will foster greater political group consciousness – such as black solidarity and a desire to bring about black advancement. Dawson (1994) theorized that black organizations encourage in their members a sense of group consciousness, as evidenced by the black utility heuristic (defined earlier in chapters 2 and 3). Other scholars have empirically documented such effects of group consciousness through theoretical as well as empirical methods relating mostly to the black church (Harris 1994; Harris-Lacewell 2004). This black political group consciousness (if it exists), characterized by a desire to give back to the black community and a belief that blacks can affect government through political action, would have the effect of making members more focused upon non-electoral forms of participation than electoral forms of participation, such as the protest politics referenced by Bayard Rustin.30 To test H3, I begin with Table 5.2. This table provides correlational coefficients between being a member (all three types of membership) and each


While the idea of political group consciousness has much theoretical and empirical support, the NBISS data is ambiguous regarding the theory. Shown in Table 5.4 (located in Appendix A), the few variables that are close measurements of group consciousness had no statistically significant relationship with membership. (It should be noted that my measures, such as “blacks should work together” and “importance of giving back to the black community,” were questions that are new to the NBISS. As such, they have not been verified to measure the outcomes I intended for them to measure.) While this finding is surprising, it does not mean that the members of these organizations are not racially conscious in their politics; rather, it simply suggests that membership in these elite organizations neither amplifies nor dampens group consciousness. At best, the data has too little variability on these measures to produce any significant results. Either way, the first theoretical assumption regarding participatory factors would best be able to explain any relationship between membership and non-electoral participation in the data provided here.


Member Correlations with Measures of Political Participation: NBISS Data.
Aggregate Membership₁ Correlation Coefficient Boulé Membership Correlation Coefficient Links Membership Correlation Coefficient

Type of Political Participation

Index of Traditional Political Participation Index of Electoral Political Participation Index of Non-Electoral Political Participation Presidential Vote (2004) ₂ Rally/March (past 5 years) Letter to Politician (past 5 years) Voter Registration or other Political Drive (past 5 years) Volunteer in a Political Campaign (past 5 years) Donate to a Political Campaign (past 5 years) Member of Black Advancement Organization Community Service (extent per year)

0.18 0.10 0.24

0.28 0.20 0.19

0.10 0.02 0.30

-0.04 0.27 0.06 -0.00 0.22 -0.11 0.00 0.19

* 0.22 0.12 0.14 0.20 * 0.00 0.00

* 0.22 0.02 -0.13 0.23 -0.15 0.00 0.36

1: These correlations represent the correlations between the members of Links and Boulé combined and each type of political participation. 2: The correlation coefficients of this variable are skewed because only one individual in the entire study responded in the negative with regard to voting in the2004 presidential election. The individual was a member, so the correlation coefficient between membership and voting is likely skewed.

political act. These political acts not only include the political acts that were part of the index of traditional political participation, but also they include two other acts: extent of involvement in community service and membership in a black advancement organization. Again, these two acts are included as part of non81

electoral participation because I define non-electoral participation as that black “protest” activity that is characterized by activities that are private and voluntary, yet still have an effect on the political process/government. Service/ community building can affect government either by working through governmental mechanisms or by removing the need for it altogether; black advancement organizations can affect the political process through legal means or through the advocacy of policies and programs. Finally, the table also includes the correlational coefficients between membership and the three indices of participation: traditional political participation, electoral political participation and non-electoral political participation. As explained and thoroughly defined in chapter 3, these indices each include 3-5 of the different political acts that relate to the form of participation they intend to measure. Looking at the correlations between different types of membership and the indices of political participation reveals a trend that provides preliminary evidence in favor of H3. There is a higher correlation between being an archon and electoral participation (0.20) than between being a link and electoral participation (0.02). In fact, this preliminary evidence appears to reveal that there is pretty much no correlation between membership in Links and electoral participation. In addition, there is a higher correlation between being a link and non-electoral participation (0.30) than between being an archon and non-electoral participation (0.19). These results can be explained by the individual political acts. Members of Links are more active in the non-electoral process mainly due to their high level of community service involvement (0.36); however, this positive relationship

holds even after removing the community service variable.31 Further, this act is not the only one in which links are active. They are also very likely to engage in rallies or marches (0.22) – another non-electoral act. For the archons of Boulé, their electoral and non-electoral activities appear equally strong. Archons have the same correlation with marching/rallying (0.22) as links and they have a larger, positive relationship with letter writing than do links (0.12). Being a member of Boulé, though, has no relationship with community service activity or black advancement organization membership. Electorally, archons are slightly more active. They are active in political drives (0.14) and volunteering in political campaigns (0.20). This preliminary evidence suggests that H3 is correct; however, to find the direct effect of membership, I proceed to control for several variables using OLS regression analysis. The OLS regression methodology here is similar to that used in chapter 4. I use the same control variables and linear regression techniques. However, in this analysis, I do not look at the baseline model because the expanded model allows for a more thorough analysis. The expanded model more nearly predicts the direct effect of membership because four other pertinent variables are included as controls. In addition to this change, I also do not run a regression on an aggregate measure of membership, for chapter 4 has suggested the relative futility of such an approach. Instead, I look immediately at the membership of Links and Boulé separately.

After removing the community service variable from the index of non-electoral participation, the correlation between links membership and the new index is 0.22, which is still positive and relatively strong when compared to other correlations.


Table 5.3 shows the results of OLS regression analysis on the two different types of participation (electoral and non-electoral) for Boulé and Links. The results show that H3 holds for Links, but does not hold for Boulé. Links are more active in the non-electoral process as a result of their membership. While membership in Links has a relationship with non-electoral political participation, there is absolutely no relationship between membership and electoral participation amongst women. For archons, membership in Boulé is significantly related to electoral political participation, but not to non-electoral political participation.32 The finding for Boulé contradicts H3, in which I hypothesized that individuals in elite black social organizations would participate more in nonelectoral forms of participation than in electoral forms. Before discussing the implications of these findings, I should state that I could not undertake a full-scale investigation into each individual non-electoral and electoral political act. Because of data limitations (see Table 5.5 in Appendix A),33 I was unable to disaggregate the indices of electoral and non-electoral participation and run meaningful logit regressions on the binary variables. I was


It should be noted that while the membership variable is insignificant in the Boulé model for non-electoral participation, the membership variable’s coefficient is of a larger magnitude than it is in the model for electoral participation.

If I had analyzed each political act, I would have had to use logit regression analysis because each individual act is coded in a binary system of 1, 0. OLS regression analysis could not have been used because its resulting estimated line to represent the probability of the dependent variable could go below 0, which is impossible for a binary variable (Stock and Watson 200, 301-310). Using logit regression with the NBISS data set was impossible for nearly every act because several of the variables would drop due to their success or failure at perfectly predicting the dependent variable. In other words, the lack of variability in many of the political acts (as evidenced by Table 5.5, located in Appendix A) disables the effective use of logit analysis.


NBISS OLS Regressions on Electoral and Non-Electoral Political Participation for Boulé and Links.

Boulé (Men)
Electoral Regression Coefficient (Robust Standard Error) Non-Electoral Regression Coefficient (Robust Standard Error)

Links (Women)
Electoral Regression Coefficient (Robust Standard Error) Non-Electoral Regression Coefficient (Robust Standard Error)

Independent Variables

Membership Education Household Income Working Status₁ American Parents Black Advancement Organization₂ Non-racial Organization Church Constant

.32**(.15) .16 (.33) .03 (.16) (dropped) .15 (.20) -.08 (.28)

.43 (.53) .42 (.46) -.10 (.21) (dropped) .79*(.41) N/A

-.04 (.28) -.18 (.30) -.16 (.12) .16 (.23) .18 (.27) -.01 (.25)

.77**(.32) .14 (.35) -.01 (.22) -.18 (.44) .36 (.25) N/A

.30 (.31)


.20 (.17)

.24 (.42)

.10 (.12) .29 (.62) R2 = .11 N = 32

.24*(.14) .33 (1.02) R2 = .28 N = 32

.04 (.17) 1.36 (1.01) R2 = .07 N= 40

.02 (.17) 1.03 (1.46) R2 = .12 N= 40

* Significant at .10 level ** Significant at .05 level *** Significant at .01 level
1: The independent variable working status is dropped in the Boulé models because every member respondent and male control group respondent answered “yes” to whether or not he currently works. 2: This variable, black advancement organization membership, was not included as a control in the regressions on non-electoral political participation because it is a part of that index. Note: “Electoral Participation” is an index of several political acts: (1) organization a voterregistration or other drive, (2) volunteering in a campaign and (3) donating to a campaign. “NonElectoral Participation” is an index of the act of (1) rallying/marching, (2) writing a letter, (3) some level of engagement in community service, and (4) black advancement organization membership.


unable to run regressions on each individual political act to see if, for example, membership in Boulé had a statistically significant relationship with taking part in a rally/march. If I had been able to conduct this hypothetical analysis, the implications of membership in these organizations (with regard to only the act of rally/march) would be more thoroughly understood. It may have turned out that membership in Boulé was in fact related to some forms of non-electoral participation, but not others. This possibility could have occurred because some unrelated forms of non-electoral participation could have outweighed the related forms when indexed. This possibility reveals one limitation of using indices. Nevertheless, I am interested in the general trend of non-electoral participation vs. electoral participation. Indexical measurement allows conclusions to be drawn about general trends of participation and about potential mechanisms for a certain type of participation. Further, the correlations presented in Table 5.2 provide a rough estimate of the effect of membership on each individual act (albeit absent the inclusion of controls). Thus, a cursory analysis of the effect of each organization on each political act can be undertaken. Returning to Table 5.3, a couple of interesting conclusions can be drawn from the results. First, these findings reveal that even the most similar voluntary organizations differ in the type of political participation in which they encourage their members to engage. The CVM and other theories of political behavior do not analyze specific organizations; instead, they assume that these organizations all affect participation in the same way. It is evident that this assumption in the


literature is false. Participation of members varies even within elite black social organizations. Second, the significance of church involvement and of membership in non-racial organizations is important to note. Table 5.3 reveals that in the Boulé model one’s non-electoral participation is significantly related to being a member of a non-racial civic organization and being active in one’s church. These results reveal not only that membership in Boulé has no relationship with the index of non-electoral political participation, but also that the relationship is comparably less significant than is the relationship with non-racial organization membership and church involvement is for these high-SES black men. In chapter 4, elite black social organizations were found to be more important in predicting traditional political participation than the church, non-racial organizations, and black advancement organizations. This finding does not remain in the case of the nonelectoral participation of men. This result suggests that Boulé’s status as an elite black social organization – often viewed as aloof from the rest of the black community (and even white society) – may be warranted. Still, Boulé membership is significantly related to electoral participation, which one could argue is just as important to black advancement and civic engagement in society as is non-electoral participation. While Archon Percy Julian may have disagreed with this statement, activist Bayard Rustin may not have (especially if the electoral participation is geared toward black betterment through the election of black politicians or other officials who would promote black interests).


Conclusion Models of participation are overbroad and long on assumptions. The data above reveals that two similar organizations can have different effects on their members’ traditional forms of participation. Most participatory studies do not take this into account, using membership variables in their analyses that include all sorts of voluntary involvements. These findings regarding organizational differences reveal the potential inapplicability of participatory models to many different organizations that would be considered voluntary or non-political. Specifically, this chapter has found that members of Links participate more actively in non-electoral political activities than other women, while members of Boulé are more engaged in the electoral political process than other men. Nonetheless, it is also clear that membership in Boulé also positively correlates with certain non-electoral behaviors like letter writing and rallying to the same (and at times greater) extent that membership in Links does. Likewise, membership in Links is positively correlated with the electoral activity of volunteering in a political campaign to a greater extent than Boulé membership is. Thus, while the trends regarding non-electoral and electoral participatory behavior for these organizations’ members are clear, there is some important overlap.


IN THEIR OWN WORDS: THE PARTICIPATION OF ARCHONS AND LINKS This chapter has three main objectives, all stemming from the limits of quantitative data with regard to telling a complete story. First, I provide a detailed description of the 11 respondents who agreed to sit for in-depth interviews. In their own words, I relay their beliefs and thoughts regarding their membership in elite black social organizations, their socio-economic status and their views on blackness and black advancement. This descriptive investigation helps to understand exactly who makes up these organizations (an extension of the discussion begun in chapter 2) and whether or not these high-SES blacks are as aloof as critical studies of the black elite portray them to be. Second, this chapter aims see if the qualitative data confirms the modes of political participation that the quantitative data finds. Are links more engaged in the non-electoral political process? Do archons report taking part more in the internal process of electoral politics? Finally, this chapter revisits the issue of causality. Taking the

institutional mechanisms of the participatory factors (civic skills, political interest and political recruitment) that Verba et al. (1995) find to be significant explanatory variables in the CVM, I analyze whether or not these three factors are gained through membership in either of these two organizations. Prior to looking at these three motivations for this chapter, the importance of causal inference must be illuminated. As revealed in chapters 4 and 5, there is a relationship between membership in each organization and at least one form of political participation.34 Despite these relationships, causality cannot be inferred because this data is observational survey data, not data taken from a controlled experiment. Despite the inability to resolutely prove a causal relationship between membership and participation, strong evidence can be found to suggest that a causal relationship exists. In chapter 3, I provided several theoretical reasons for believing the causal flow runs from membership to participation, not the reverse and not in a simultaneous manner. Some of these reasons were: (1) the history and institutional structures of each organization, (2) the empirical evidence on voluntary associations and political participation, and (3) the non-political nature of these organizations (especially Boulé). In the final section of this chapter, I add


This relationship is important because the first step in theorizing causality is to remove the possibility of lurking variables and confounding variables that may influence the relationship between the main independent variable of analysis (membership) and the dependent variable (participation). Through the quantitative analysis in chapters 4 and 5, I was able to remove the most obvious potential lurking and confounding variables by controlling for them in my regression analyses. Although it is impossible to know for certain that all lurking or confounding variables have been controlled for, it is rational to operate under that assumption because of my use of other empirical evidence and the reliance on defensible theories in determining my control variables.


to this case by providing qualitative evidence regarding the participatory factors outlined in the CVM.

Archons and Links: Beliefs and Thoughts on Race, Status and Membership Table 6.1 provides a short-hand look at some of the demographics and affiliations of the 11 respondents.35 Five are women and six are men. Because the organizations are gender-specific, the five women are members of Links, while the six men are archons in Boulé. In order to safeguard the identities of the individuals, I did not include their ages, professions or years of membership in Table 6.1 These factors, though, are wide-ranging. All of the respondents are somewhere between the ages of 40-70; they are professors, corporate executives, physicians, attorneys, and publishers; and, their years of membership in the organizations range from 2 years to more than 25. All of the individuals, except one, stated that the majority of their friends were black Americans. In addition, all of them characterized their friends as middle class to wealthy/ upper-class. Among the respondents, all expressed the belief in a “cultural” difference between blacks and whites – though most believed that this difference is a function of class, socio-economic standing or a tendency to self-segregate. No one expressed a racialist belief in a fundamental difference between blacks and whites.

Two important notes about this table. First, as stated in chapter 3, I changed the names and other identifying information of the respondents. Second, the inconsistency in this table is intentional. In order to capture an accurate picture of these respondents, it was my intention to be as faithful to their wording/ view of the world as possible. As such, I used their terms in describing their demographics. For example, if the respondent referred to his/her friends as “African-American” instead of “black,” I used the term “African-American” – not “black”, which I have been using throughout this thesis in order to refer to African-Americans. Also, I use direct quotations for some of the responses, which can be denoted by the use of quotation marks.


TABLE 6.1 Archon and Link Demographics/Affiliations: NBISS Descriptive Statistics from In-Depth Interviews.
Black Adv. Org. John Yes Nonracial Org. Yes Race and SES of Majority of Close Friends AfricanAmerican, middle to upper AfricanAmerican, middle to upper AfricanAmerican, professional Black, higherincome AfricanAmerican, upper-middle Black, uppermiddle class Black, very well-off Mixed, uppermiddle or upper AfricanAmerican, middle to upper Black, affluent

Political Activity Not very active Very active

Activity in Boulé/Links Very active




Very active




Very active

Very active

David Richard

Yes Yes

Yes Yes

Very active Very active

Active Very active

Mark Patricia Kimberly Karen

Yes Yes Yes Yes

Yes Very few Yes Yes

Very active Very active Active Active

Active * Very active Very Active


Yes (not active)

"No longer”




White, wealthy

Active, but "more active in the past" "Very, very and very"

Very Active

"Fairly Active"

Along with these individuals’ high socioeconomic status comes a noticeable amount of elitism and status amplification amongst some, but not all, of the respondents. For example, Michael, who was one of the more politically conservative of the respondents, stated at the end of his interview that he was glad


I was undertaking this investigation for little is known about middle class blacks. He remarked:
This is very important for you to do this [research], because most people think that African-Americans are lower income, but since 1954, the mix of African-Americans with lower income has decreased. And there have been more middle and upper-income people whose political thoughts are much different […] And I, I think it’s time somebody did some studies on both, because I think we tend to do the average. Well, there’s a lot of people in here [Boulé] who are not average.

While Michael’s comments do not hint at a disregard for or belief in the inferiority of lower-class blacks, his comments do reveal that he views himself to be distinct from this group. At the end of my interview with Patricia, she suggested that most of the women in Links were elitist. She said: “I would say the Links are the most elitist female organization in Nashville and, really, in the country.” She gave an example of this elitism by recounting an incident during which a dark-skinned woman was being put up for membership. In a frank tone, Patricia commented:
And the person was dark, a professional woman. They were challenging, they didn’t want her. Boy, I went off on them. I mean, it really made me mad. And so, I went around the room and I pointed at one person. I said, “you’re a link because you’re light-skinned, you have long hair and your husband’s a doctor.” And I just went around the room. And I was saying, “who are you? You don’t even have a job!” […] I didn’t like that because all my life I’ve been fighting. [In the past], it wasn’t about the light-skinned or the dark-skinned. We were just Negroes. [Now], we are like white people, really. We do the same thing. But, it’s gotten a little better now because we have more dark skinned and brown skinned people [in Links].

Although Patricia decried the elitism of some of her fellow links, she had admitted earlier in the interview that she too had joined the organization in order to be exclusive and gain a feeling of social status. About joining the organization, she stated: “at one point in your life, you want to be elitist.” The other 9 respondents do not appear to hold views as strong as Michael or Patricia. They acknowledge their status in the black middle and upper classes,

but attribute it to their parents or grandparents, not to themselves. Further, they are more hesitant about drawing lines between the classes. David noted that “Many [well-off blacks] were born on third and never hit a triple. Many have been blessed and don’t realize that they have stood on the shoulders of many others who are no longer here.” Similarly, Mark said:
Your upper-class blacks typically are there because they’ve set their priorities differently. They made a decision somewhere down the line – it may not have been my generation […] but somewhere down the line, they made a decision that there are certain things that are important in their family and they want to leave that legacy.

Like Mark, all the respondents noted that the differences between the black elite and the black lower class were about values and structural problems, whether it be jobs, poverty or the lack of contact with beneficial social networks. Reflecting on the differences between her and other blacks, Lisa noted: “Affluent blacks see the positive in America – what I can be. How you can be a part of it. I think that those who are poor, are oppressed – they feel they’re going to be there for the rest of their lives, so why even try to be different? They don’t have the exposure to all of the wonderful blessings of the United States.” Lisa’s comment hits at the heart of what it means for these respondents to be black and middle class. They are both privileged, but also aware of how frail that privilege is. Because of this understanding and other reasons, all 11 of these respondents feel a connection to the black community and an obligation to help other blacks – in spite of the elitism of some. Even Michael expressed a belief in giving back to other blacks, even though it may not be in line with his economic philosophy. He stated: “Yes, I do feel an obligation, but I really want to work with those who really want to succeed. I’m not interested in becoming a person

who contributes to their welfare.” Despite Michael’s lack of interest in contributing to those he may perceive as lazy or unmotivated, he still expressed an interest in helping other blacks and expressed an understanding of his connection to them. The other respondents, even Mary who felt that blacks “self-segregate” themselves too much, were much more expressive in their commitment to other blacks and general black welfare. Members of Boulé and Links are aware of their blackness and concerned about the well-being of others – a finding that is consistent with the predictions of Michael Dawson’s “black utility heuristic36” – a concept mentioned previously in chapter 2. The possible reasons for this connection to, affiliation with and understanding of other blacks of different class positions relates to why these members may be a part of these organizations in the first place. These are individuals who, by and large, work in majority-white work environments and/or live in majority-white neighborhoods. The same motivation that led to the creation of these organizations continues to be one of many reasons for their continued existence, in spite of the removal of overt forms of discrimination and racism. Only one of the Boulé respondents, David, did not explicitly state that his reason for joining Boulé was in order to escape from everyday life interactions or be in a fraternity of “like-minded black men.” Owing to the slightly different purpose of Links, as has been discussed, two links stated that one of their reasons

The “black utility heuristic” is a term that Dawson (1994) uses in his book Behind the Mule: Race and Class in African-American Politics. Dawson argues that the heuristic explains the finding that perceptions of racial group interests often supersede conceptions of class interests among high-SES blacks. In other words, he finds that many of these blacks maintain ideological (and perhaps, emotional) connections to other blacks who are not of their same class.


for joining Links was in order to contribute to service in some sort of way. Still, all links, except Patricia, expressed some sort of longing for a connection with other black women as very important. Even Mary, whose friends are mostly white, stated: “I do think it’s important to have ties with the black community and people who have things in common with you.” Most respondents expressed a feeling of unease around whites in certain, though not all, environmental contexts. Regarding these feelings, Karen said:
I think a lot of times we’re forced to assimilate. I don’t think whites often feel the necessity to understand minority populations because they are the majority […] whereas most of my close friends are African-Americans. I mean, I have different friends across different racial groups. But, they [whites] often feel the need to have to be more diverse and sometimes, I think I get a little annoyed because we’re always having to enlighten them […] We shouldn’t always have to be doing that in this day and age.

While these high-SES blacks have a good number of non-black friends and coworkers with whom they are able to interact in professional and social settings, these blacks overwhelmingly maintain a certain unease – or perhaps, annoyance. All respondents who worked in majority-white environments felt completely (or at the least, moderately) comfortable in their work environments; yet, the unease and discomfort came about in social settings and interactions, as Karen stated above. Lisa more expressly mentioned this difference between work and social space. She stated:
I’m able to bridge both [the white and black communities], because I’ve been all my life exposed to both. [Yet,] I’m not really interacting on a social basis. Now on a work basis, I can work with just about anybody. I can have the one-on-one conversations. But in that big party room, it’s a different story. Even when I go to, like, the upscale fundraisers, I’m still talking primarily to black people, not white.

All the respondents, except Kimberly and Mary who have a good number of close friends of different races, saw their relationships with other high-SES blacks as more intimate and those with whites as either removed or based on a need to

network and advance their professional interests. Nevertheless, every respondent insisted he or she had no animus toward or disregard for any race, ethnicity or cultural group of people. From this initial analysis of the respondents, the ambiguous separation and distance that tends to characterize many of the social and professional interactions of these high-SES blacks can be seen. Even though these blacks are active members of their city and community, the majority still seek black counterpublic spaces of social interaction either as an escape-valve or as a means to tie themselves back to what they consider to be their community. Contrary to Dawson’s predictions, the black counterpublic space (though it may not be flourishing) still has a basis for existence.

Protest and Politics: The Non-Electoral and Electoral Political Participation of Archons and Links In chapters 4 and 5, I found that elite black social organizations in general have an effect on the traditional conception of political participation. Further, I found that when the organizations are separated, Boulé’s effect remains, while Links’ no longer exists. With regard to the electoral and non-electoral dichotomy, Boulé members are more active in electoral politics, while Links members are more active in non-electoral politics. In this section, I look to see if these trends are reflected in the in-depth interview data. First, I look at the archons. It appears that the qualitative evidence mirrors the quantitative results. All of the men, except for John, consider themselves to be very active in the traditional political process. John’s lack of activity, though, is

relative. John votes in elections, donates to campaigns, and engages in other lessinvolved political activities. However, he notes that he does not “become involved in the day-to-day activities of the political process, such as handing out leaflets.” The other archons, who describe themselves as very active, mention electoral political activities more often than they mention non-electoral activities. Regarding the electoral political process, the five other archons express cognitive engagement with politics, expressing high levels of interest in and attentiveness toward politics. Mark commented, as he laughed:
[I do it] all! Donate, go to fundraisers, help host fundraisers, stay abreast of the candidates, whether it’s you know through the internet – I get these CNN and New York Times updates that I follow. I probably watch CNN at night quite a bit. My four year old son watches it right now [laughing …]

The men’s engagement in the electoral political process is so in-depth that at least half of the men mentioned donating to or supporting Republicans/conservatives. I argue that this (mostly weak) support of conservatism is evidence that these men are highly engaged in the electoral political process because voting along one’s economic, personal or social well-being (which these men define as reasons they entertain conservative ideologies) goes against the group-based mentality that is characterized by the black utility heuristic. Of his political ideology, Richard noted:
I donate always to political campaigns – on the Right and on the Left. I participate. I volunteer services locally and nationally. There’s never been a time when I haven’t voted, and, uh, like I said, I vote Republican as well as Democrat.

Like Richard, David expressed conservative viewpoints. He remarked that while he was intrigued by the possibility of Barack Obama being elected the first black president, he was wary because “It’s going to hurt me if in fact his thought

process is advanced. I’m not a tax and spend guy […] I actually vote on what is [in] the best interest of myself.” These men are very active in electoral politics, whether through volunteering in campaigns, voting, hosting fundraisers or paying attention to the political climate. The non-electoral participation of these men is mentioned, but not to the same extent as their electoral involvements. While Michael suggested that he was active in electoral politics because “I think the government can be used to really solve many social problems,” he also commented that “I think that the government tends to mess up. The unintended consequences of government programs are great.” Michael’s alternative is “community involvement.” Ironically, however, Michael did not believe that the social action programs in Boulé should be part of the organization – despite his strong commitment to community action. He suggested that Boulé was meant to be exclusively fraternal. He stated: “I didn’t come to Boulé for social action; I do social action outside of Boulé.” Michael’s participation regarding non-electoral politics reveals that while these men may vocally support non-electoral engagement, many of them may not take the requisite action to make such participation a reality, at least not in the organizational context. Yet, the organization appears to be changing. As noted in chapter 2, Boulé has increasingly become an organization that involves itself with community action through its foundation and other charitable works. John, who served in several leadership roles in Chi Boulé, was one of the main members pushing the organization toward a greater level of “social action.” However, John provided

few specifics on the types of social action he initiated. Further, even if John had succeeded in encouraging his fellow archons to engage in some sort of social action, a few of the men may have resisted. At least two of the men interviewed expressed the preference they had for maintaining a strong fraternal and social element to the organization – as if social action and fraternalism were a zero-sum tradeoff. The evident debate (or as Michael calls it, “battle”) that has occurred internally among these men regarding social action reveals three things. First, these men debate and talk about the necessity of organizing outside of the political process through forms of non-electoral politics. Second, many of them do engage in it – either as a collective or as individuals. And third, the archons like Michael, who resist the change, appear to be increasingly outnumbered by archons like William and John who see the organization as a space for fraternalism and service. Now, I turn to the links. The qualitative data of these women also confirms the quantitative results. These women are more involved in nonelectoral politics than in the electoral political process. First, unlike the men, none of the women in Links expressed conservative viewpoints. From this initial characteristic, one can infer that their involvement in electoral politics is not as entrenched relative to their non-electoral involvement. Their electoral considerations are at least partially affected by a feeling of commitment to causes outside of their high household incomes and social statuses. This finding suggests that the women may be engaged in more outsider processes than insider ones, like voting and campaign activity.

The actual comments of these links reveal that they do engage in electoral politics, but not as actively as archons and not necessarily any more than other similarly-situated women (which explains why membership in Links is not a significant predictor of electoral participation). Like the men, all the women express that they vote regularly and pay attention to some aspect of politics. Many women recount their political involvement with a sense of racial or historical obligation/duty. For example, Lisa stated: “I’ve always voted, because I think that’s a right that we’ve been given and the only way that you can have any voice is if you put your voice out there.” Lisa also participates in campaigns (though this involvement is not explicitly racialized). In addition to Lisa, Karen also racializes her involvement. Asked about how important being involved in the political process is to her, she declared: “There was a hard fight to get a right to vote, so why throw away that fight and not do it?” Like Lisa and Karen, Mary also talked about her “civic duty.” Turning to non-electoral politics, the women in Links are quite active. The most obvious difference in non-electoral politics between archons and links is with regard to community service and social engagement. When asked about their participatory behavior in these realms, every link, except Kimberly, made a reference to the Links as an important avenue through which they engage in community service or learn methods and techniques that help them to be more service-oriented in their other endeavors. In contrast, none of the archons made the association between service and Boulé when asked about their participation in community service. In addition to this association, links are more engaged in

community-institution building; the majority of the respondents are more expressive about these engagements than they are about political engagements (with the exception of Lisa). For example, Mary spoke of her involvements with charity outside of Links, including her management of enrichment programs for “the working poor.” Karen spoke of how she uses her medical career to serve others by “educating the community about cancers like breast cancer […] educating the public about their health.” One notable thing about these women’s involvement is that a good amount of it takes place outside of Links. While the organization commits these women to get involved in Links-related programs, the organization has a galvanizing effect, making women more involved in non-Links community engagement. While the links mention many forms of non-electoral political participation, they do fail to mention others. For example, none mentioned taking part in rallies or marches – and neither did the men. Admittedly, I did not ask an explicit question about this form of engagement; however, the fact that such participation never came up in any of the interviews suggests that it is not an important feature of these women’s civic or political lives. But, the women do talk about other non-electoral forms of participation without direct prompting. For most of the links, this commitment to non-electoral participation begins as something intangible, such as a philosophy toward non-electoral participation. This intangible support of civic engagement has been noted above, but another example is Karen’s answer to “how important is being active in the political process to you?” After recounting a story about one of her friends who refused to

vote, she moved from talking about electoral politics to talking about nonelectoral politics by stating:
I guess we all have some kind of civic responsibility. And so, even though sometimes we have problems that seem insurmountable […] everybody should just do their little part to help the community […] I think a lot of times we get too focused on I, I, I, me, me, me, you know. I think that if you are blessed enough to have something, you need to give something back.

Like Karen, Patricia also thinks often about non-electoral influence. Because she is a publisher, she commented about her ability to “do a little influencing because I have the ink.” While much of her work through publishing may come from and affect non-electoral politics, it also has an internal effect on electoral politics. Remembering a moment during Barack Obama’s campaign for the Democratic primary, she commented:
I try to write positive things about black politics […] and even when the Tennessee Republicans attacked Michelle, I did front page on it. I attacked the Republicans and put the white woman who’s their chair on front page. And if they come back again, then I’ll probably come back nasty.

In addition to these less tangible non-electoral involvements, individual links also note their engagement in black advancement organizations and networks to a greater extent than the archons. Causal Inference: Qualitative Evidence of the CVM’s Participatory Factors In order to see whether or not a direction of causality is suggested by the qualitative data, I analyze three participatory factors that the CVM predicts to be reasons why mainstream voluntary organizations heighten the levels of participation of their membership. These three factors are civic skills, political interest and political recruitment/ networking. While other factors may go into the reasons why high-SES blacks in elite black social organizations participate in

different types of political processes, the participatory factors in the CVM would most likely be included alongside these mechanisms that encourage participation. If CVM’s factors are not present in the organizational contexts of Links and Boulé, then there is little basis (other than theoretical evidence) for believing the flow of causality runs from membership to participation. I begin with the first factor: civic skills. For archons, the accrual of civic skills from membership in Boulé appears to be rather strongly suggested by the qualitative data. The archons have all gained skills from being involved in the organization. Four of the six men have held at least one leadership position in the organization. Through their leadership, they have been able perfect their persuasion skills in healthy debates at monthly meetings, perfect their leadership skills in comporting Chi Boulé to the new social action mission of the larger organization (William and John made explicit mention of this), and perfect their networking skills as they meet and socialize with fellow archons at the bi-annual Grand Boulé. While these men often come to the organization as successful individuals in their own right, their membership in the organization keeps them sharp and informed, as evidenced by the political debates among many of the men (described later) and the general debate among the archons about the direction of the organization. The social space enables these men to be active and re-define their thoughts and actions. For links, the presence of civic skill accrual is even stronger. Members gain skills through their many community involvements, which are a direct result of Links membership. Kimberly noted that she had helped to spearhead a micro104

loan program through the Links that will provide loans to individuals in Mozambique, Nigeria and the Caribbean. Although it may appear that Kimberly brought this skill-set to Links, instead of garnering it from Links, Kimberly remarked that she would not have been able to do this without being a link. Kimberly stated that through her work on this and other projects, she gained skills:
I’ve always shied away from fundraising and, as a result of Links, I jumped right in the middle of it. So, I’ve developed my skills at financial development. […] It [Links] has improved my approach to dealing with the money needs.

Like Kimberly, Karen also revealed that because of Links, she was able to gain the opportunity to engage in other types of civic participation besides medicalrelated activities. The skills these links accrue are also directly applicable to the electoral political process, as evidenced by Lisa’s willingness to help her friend as the treasurer of a campaign and her comment that “Links has helped give me an area to show leadership.” Dealing with finances in Links most likely strengthened her ability to be an effective participant. The more rigorous involvements of the organization require the links to gain and sharpen a good number of skills. The second factor, political interest, has an ambiguous relationship to the organizations. Sigma Pi Phi increases members’ interest in politics to a far greater extent than Links does. The debate over social action in the Boulé (to which John, Michael, William and Richard all alluded at least once) appears to be a major part of the organization’s socialization of political interest. The archons, even those who disagree, have been told from the national Boulé that social action has to become a serious part of their fraternity. This socialization, while it may not bring

about actual participation, certainly encourages interest in non-electoral forms of participation, community service, institution-building and participation in marches. With regard to electoral politics, there is no institutional socialization mechanism that brings about interest; however, the nature of the interactions among the men has the effect of increasing electoral political interest. Regarding the reason he enjoys Boulé meetings, Michael recalled:
Politically, I don’t get into many discussions about politics around whites or blacks [… But,] I do it in Boulé sometimes, because there’s one particular member of the Boulé that I enjoy discussion with. That’s [Harry]. [Harry] is very liberal and I’m conservative. We have a great time challenging each other, and it causes me to think.

For Michael and Harry, Boulé appears to provide a safe space for discussions of politics and political ideology. The same goes for the other men. During the 2008 presidential election, at least one of the monthly meeting topics regarded the democratic primary. In this meeting (as one respondent covertly recounted so as not to break any fraternal obligations to privacy), archons debated back and forth regarding the merits of an Obama presidency. Both the electoral and non-electoral political behaviors of members are affected by the organization. Within Links political interest does not run as strong. The members appear to be socialized towards engagement to a certain extent, but not nearly as much as members of Boulé. Unlike Boulé, Links is not as secretive or exclusive. In that sense, the affinity that links have toward one another may not be strong enough to provide as robust a site for socialization. In fact, some divisive elements were noted, especially by Patricia. Her story, recounted in the beginning of this chapter, shows that the women may have tension based upon skin color or professional differences (since some women are homemakers). The other respondents, though,

do not mention these tensions. Only Kimberly made a slight remark at the end of her interview that may have suggested tension. She stated that to work “with a group of African-American women is a real treat and opportunity – most days [laughing].” Overall, it appears that the relationship among these women is simply not as close as it is for the men in Boulé who are fewer and engage in a greater number of social activities. Nevertheless, the women are socialized to some extent. Mary noted that Links provides “a venue for social interaction, otherwise known as sisterhood. And through that sisterhood to bond through acts of good work for others.” Through their regular facet meetings and hours of service, links interact in a more formal manner that aids to bring about some sense of political interest, particularly in the non-electoral political arena. Lisa commented that being a link can have the effect of strengthening one’s belief in her own power to affect change. Lisa asserted:
And, the power in a Links chapter is amazing. If they use the power. And that’s the key. We have to use the power that we have. And oftentimes, black women don’t realize that they have much power. Black men do if they’re at that level. But black women, particularly if they’re the wife-of, they don’t view that power in themselves. But they really have the power.

As Lisa noted, the key is recognizing that power. The activities and interactions of these women most likely produce some sort of recognition of it. While this mechanism may not be as strong for links, it is hard to believe that political interest is not at least moderately increased by interacting among a group of professional, active women who share several demographic characteristics in common.


The final factor is political recruitment. For archons, this factor is ambiguous; for links, it is stronger. At first glance, it appears that Boulé does not facilitate this role for these men. The archons view themselves as men who have already achieved. When asked if the organization had opened any doors for them in their “personal, social or professional” lives, all of the men, except for Mark, responded with a quick “no” – almost as if that sort of networking were out of the question in such an elite organization. But Mark, the youngest respondent, responded with a more complicated answer:
Ummm, that’s a good question. You know, I think that – a lot of guys I have already known – either through 100 Black Men [a black advancement organization] or other things that I’m involved in. Um, but I think, you know, it’s a fraternity also, so I think people tend to look at you differently as far as their relationship with you no matter how good your relationship was already. You know, when you become part of it, you bond with people differently when you have that kind of affiliation. So, from a social scenario, yes. From a professional relationship, that’s not a scenario where it’s benefited my business. Again, just being able to watch those guys and see how they operate and think and those types of things I think has been beneficial to me.

Perhaps because of his age, Mark feels he has learned more from these men than they feel they have learned from one another. But even William, who is much older, stated that he has learned from the other archons. Commenting on the intellectual and professional diversity of the men, he said, “You are there with people who have different expertise, you can learn from them. And so, I learn from people who are members of Sigma Pi Phi.” Perhaps, then, the other men interpreted the question to be asking if Boulé had helped provide them an advantage with regard to status or wealth (the term “open doors” most likely primed this reaction). Alternatively, Mark and William are simply more attuned to something that the other men simply take for granted. Then again, it could be that these men have genuinely received no networking or recruitment benefits from

being members. Still, it would be rational to assume that a close connection with other individuals would aid in recruitment (asking one to attend a rally, or help out on a fundraising campaign, etc.) and in networking (meeting other archons who are influential on certain boards or in certain civic organizations).37 For links, this final factor appears to be stronger among them than it is among archons. Links answered in a slightly different manner than the archons with regard to the question of whether or not Links opened any doors in their social, personal or professional lives; many fewer women answered in the negative. Three of the five women answered in the positive. Lisa is one of the women who answered positively. Her response reveals the way in which Links enables women to network, build a system of support and gain social resources. She stated:
If I move anywhere in the country, it [Links] gives you immediate access to the affluent clique in that community. You know, every community has an affluent black population and the key is, how do you get in it? And the Links organization […] is one of those that gives immediate access. It gives you an immediate opportunity to show what you have and to make a difference. And so for me, if you take advantage of it, it’s wonderful.

Lisa’s comments reveal that being a link enables one to be influential in the community. This influence makes it easier to be involved in community-building institutions, take part in protests and rallies, participate in fundraisers and meet influential politicians and other public servants. Further, and perhaps more relevantly, being in that “clique” results in recruitment for these different

It could be argued that the recruitment and networking of this organization is what pulled these men into the organization in the first place. However, this is unlikely. First, the type of networking and recruitment is one of close affiliation, which as Mark noted, comes about from a fraternal relationship. Second, Boulé is secretive and does not recruit members or network in order to find members. Rather, future archons are selected through careful choice and debate; not through ordinary networking or recruiting mechanisms.


involvements. Kimberly and Mary shared similar comments. The recruitment mechanism attached to being involved in Links – whether directly through another link or through the circles of friendship that result from being a link – is clear.

Evidence of Other Causal Directions? Although the in-depth interviews provide data largely supporting the hypothesized causal direction, it also provides some evidence of other causal flows. Below, I re-state the two alternative causal theories described in chapter 3, presenting evidence that either suggests or rejects these possible directions of causality. While some suggestive evidence exists, it is underwhelming. Further, the evidence pales in comparison to the weight of evidence provided above (regarding the participatory factors) and the theoretical evidence from both past empirical studies and the nature of these organizations. The first alternative causal theory is that people are chosen to join the organizations because the members who selected them have engaged with them or met them through political and/or social networks. This causal flow suggests that it is participation in these political and social networks (which could contain both electoral and non-electoral forms of participation) that brings about membership, not the reverse. Under this theory, those who are approached to become members are already active participants in social and political processes, explaining the correlation observed.


This first alternative theory, while unlikely for both, is more likely with regard to Boulé than it is with regard to Links. The archons of Sigma Pi Phi are all men who have succeeded to some degree in their professional careers, and the main selection criterion for this organization is success – whether personal, professional or social. As William characterized it, Boulé is the “end game” – archons are in the organization because of their past achievement. This past achievement would suggest that the men are known for their achievement in social and/or political networks. The evidence appears to give this alternative theory some validity, as many of the men, especially Mark, noted having known archons through other organizations, especially black advancement organizations. Nevertheless, one of the main criteria for membership is excellence in professional endeavors, such as business, medicine or law. When the members select to invite new individuals into the group, they often know them for their renown as exemplars in their profession, not through political and social networks. Further, even if these men are selected because of recruitment through political/social networks, their membership in Boulé has made them even more engaged than they would have been. The evidence presented in the previous section has shown that both civic skills and political interest are heightened by membership in the organization. As Mark noted, even though he knew the men through other social networks before joining, it was through the bonding experience of Boulé that he was able to learn from and imitate the other archons. For Boulé, the first alternative causal theory appears to have a slight reverse


causal effect; however, the greater effect is the originally hypothesized flow that membership brings about participation. For the Links, the first alternative causal theory is even weaker. The women are just as successful as the men of Boulé; however, the selection process differs between the two organizations. Links does not require that the women have attained a bachelors degree (though most have) and it is not as selective as Boulé (as evidenced by the greater number of members and the existence of four chapters of Links in the Nashville area). As Patricia noted in her in-depth interview, the selection of these women may also be susceptible to superficial arguments about skin color and social status. Given this evidence, the link between selection as a member and political networks is much weaker in Links. Personal social networks, such as friendship, are much more likely. Lisa noted that her mother was the main reason she was selected as a link. Lisa frankly stated: “Links, I got into very early, because my mother was a link. I’m a daughter.” Because personal social networks have arguably much less relation to political participation than do institutionalized social networks through organizations and associations, the notion that these women are selected for their involvement is much weaker. Further, as with Boulé, the participatory factors are much stronger. For Links, the participatory factors of civic skills and political recruitment explain much more of the relationship between membership and participation. The second causal alternative, which is a type of self-selection, is that there is an external variable that explains the relationship between membership

and participation. In this theory, this third variable would have a positive, causal relationship with both membership and participation. For example, it is possible that a love for active engagement in the political process causes both membership in these elite black social organizations and also participation in the political process. While this theory is more difficult to resolve absent a controlled experiment, the evidence here does not suggest (especially for Boulé) that this third variable is the causal mechanism behind the relationship between membership and participation. First, these organizations are social organizations. People join largely for social bonding, not to become more involved in either the electoral or non-electoral processes.38 Second, I have controlled for several potential lurking and confounding variables in my regression analyses in chapters 4 and 5. The possible external variables such as activity in other organizations, income, education, working status etc. have been removed from the relationship exhibited between membership and participation. To more effectively reveal the lack of evidence in support of this final causal alternative, I first look to Boulé. It is doubtful that these men joined the organization because of their political activity, or other third factors that relate to

In Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics (1995), Verba et al. make the claim that an analysis of organization affect on political participation is best carried out by focusing on organizations that do not take political stands. This is necessary in order to legitimize the claim that any correlation between political participation and organizational membership flows from the organization to participation and not in the reverse direction. As Verba et al. note, “Even decisions about adult institutional involvements – the nature, direction, and extent of commitment to the workplace, religious institutions, or non-political organizations – would seem to be largely independent of political inclinations. They do not derive from voluntary political activity or, even, from anticipation of voluntary political activity.” In my analysis, I highlight two social (and expressly non-political) organizations in order to maintain the legitimacy of a suggestion of causality.


political activity. Moreover, it is certain that they did not join in order to become active in the non-electoral political process of community involvement, for the outside perception of Sigma Pi Phi is one of an elitist group of men. John and Richard both noted that they had this perception of Boulé before joining. Richard commented:
I really didn’t think of becoming a member of the Boulé […] the point is, I thought it was more elitist than what it actually is. And I mean that in somewhat of a derogatory term. And when I did get to meet some of the guys who were in, I think it was a wise decision to do it. […] My thoughts about it at first were that it was a bunch of – well, I’ll just say elitist.

This viewpoint on the organization suggests that people do not enter in order to become socialized in electoral political interest, access networks of political recruitment or even engage in non-electoral activity. The men join because of excitement in having been selected and because of the social prestige that comes with such an honor – neither of these reasons has any logical relationship to participation. For Links, there is more credibility in the second alternative causal theory. Because Links encourages its members to engage in service to a more effective degree than Boulé, the service of the organization is, perhaps, part of its draw. Because activity in community building and service is part of the index of nonelectoral participation, the observed relationship between non-electoral

participation and membership could be derived from a third variable – interest in service. While two of the women interviewed did mention service as one of their greater motivators in accepting the invitation to join Links, most did not. Three described “sisterhood” and the desire to bond with other similarly-situated women

as the primary motivator; even the other two described this bonding as a major motivator (among others). In fact, Lisa commented that this finding is far from unusual, for many women are in the organization for reasons completely unrelated to service. She stated, “Our chapter has a lot of, we have some wife-of types [women who are wives of successful men]. But actually, a lot of them are not […] For some, they’re just in the organization for the prestige it brings.” Patricia, more explicitly noted that her own interest in Links had nothing to do with service. She stated:
[…] I saw no service that they did. You know I thought it was just the title to say you’re a link. And I mean, they had a few programs, but I guess I just wanted to say that I was a link. And that’s the truth.

Further complicating this alternative theory of causality is the fact that an interest in service alone cannot explain the dependent variable either. The dependent variable (non-electoral participation) includes more than just service. It also includes writing a letter to a politician, participating in a rally/protest and activity in a black advancement. Thus, an interest in service is insufficient as a third variable for explaining membership and non-electoral participation. As in Boulé, other potential external variables, besides those that have already been controlled, are unlikely to affect both propensity to join and propensity to participate politically.

Piecing together much of what this study has revealed, Figures 6.1 and 6.2 show a summary of the correlational relationships found in chapters 4 and 5, coupled with the causal relationships suggested through the analyses in this


chapter. These two Figures focus on Links and Boulé.39 They are concerned with the relationship between these organizations and the three modes of participation studied (non-electoral, electoral and traditional); they are unconcerned with other explanatory variables of participation unless they also relate to membership in the organizations. The central focus of these models is describing the effects of the organizational context, not necessarily outlining all of the factors that contribute to participation. As such, I do not include the control variables in these path models. Even if the variables are confounding, I already controlled for them and still found a direct relationship between membership and certain forms of participation. I begin with Figure 6.1, which shows the path model for Links, for this model is slightly more complicated than the Boulé model. This model shows the avenue through which women become links and how that membership affects their non-electoral participation. Women are invited into Links through personal, familial and social friendship networks. The reason there is no connection between these networks and participation in the path model is because these networks (based upon membership in the church, non-racial organizations, etc.) have already been controlled for in the regression analysis; any friendship


I do not include a path model for elite black social organizations in general. I do not include the finding from chapter 4 regarding elite black organizations as a whole, because the causal mechanisms regarding them cannot be fully determined from the in-depth interviews provided in this chapter. The members talk about their specific organizations, not elite black social organizations in general. Nevertheless, the interviews, coupled with the theoretical evidence provided in chapter 3, provide a strong suggestion that causality for most elite black social organizations runs from membership to participation – perhaps (as is the case of Boulé and Links) for slightly different reasons.


FIGURE 6.1 Path Model of the Effects of Links Membership on Participation.

NOTE: The solid arrows represent relationships that are compellingly suggested from an assessment of both
the quantitative evidence presented in chapters 4 and 5 and the qualitative evidence presented here. The dotted arrows are those that are either inconclusive (or ambiguous). The participatory factors that are bracketed are similar in this regard; they are the factors that cannot be definitively said to be mechanisms involved in the relationship between membership and each form of participation.

networks that were not controlled for most likely have little relationship to participation. As mentioned earlier, women ultimately accept an invitation to join the Links for several reasons. The main reasons that women join the organization are: racial exclusion, social bonding and the accrual of social status. These reasons are supported by literature on the organization and the interviews of the members. In addition, interest in service has a potential effect (note: it is denoted

by a dotted line in the figure because its effect is inconclusive) on explaining why women join. While the effect is inconclusive with regard to reasons for joining, it is certain that an interest in serving affects non-electoral participation (even if only to a small degree). As such, it is a potential confounding variable. However, as mentioned earlier, only some women (to varying extents; some more than others) expressed that they joined because of an interest in service, so the evidence is ambiguous and inconclusive. Further, even if the variable is confounding, the participatory mechanisms (political recruitment, civic skills and perhaps group consciousness) have been shown to be rather strong within the organizational context. The strength of these factors suggests that if interest in service could be controlled, the effect of Links membership would still be significant. This notion is strengthened by the fact that, theoretically, interest in service only affects half of the acts within the index of non-electoral participation. The other half of the index (the acts of rallying and writing a letter) has no discernible relationship to an interest in service. For Boulé, Figure 6.2 depicts the path model that the evidence suggests explains the relationship between membership and political participation. Men join Boulé for the same reasons as women (racial exclusion, social bonding and status), absent any desire for or interest in service. The men may be interested in service individually, as many are; however, that interest is not a motivation for joining. For Boulé, the invitation is extended to potential archons through slightly different networks than in Links. Potential members are known (personally and impersonally) by the archons through social, as well as, professional networks.

FIGURE 6.2 Path Model of the Effects of Boulé Membership on Participation.

NOTE: The solid arrows represent relationships that are compellingly suggested from an assessment of both
the quantitative evidence presented in chapters 4 and 5 and the qualitative evidence presented here. The dotted arrows are those that are either inconclusive (or ambiguous). The participatory factors that are bracketed are similar in this regard; they are the factors that cannot be definitively said to be mechanisms involved in the relationship between membership and each form of participation.

The relationship between these men’s networks and the two forms of participation with which Boulé is correlated is inconclusive in the context of Boulé membership. Because social/professional networks, like non-racial organizations and black advancement organizations, have been controlled, a good number of these networks are irrelevant to the path model in explaining traditional and electoral participation. Some networks, like professional associations and the like

are still relevant – as they may have an effect on political participation. However, such organizations most likely do not have much of an effect on the invitation to join, for these men are not co-workers and vary greatly in their professions. In short, the professional/social networks (like 100 Black Men and other black advancement organizations) that members mention as potential networks for recruiting future archons have been taken into account in chapters 4 and 5. Overall, for both Links and Boulé, it appears that the causal direction from membership to participation through the participatory factors described in the previous section explains the relationship between membership and participation to the greatest extent. The civic skills, political interest and political recruitment gained through these organizations are quite impactful.

Conclusion Archons and links are individuals aware of their class status, but deeply concerned about issues of black advancement; they are professionals uncomfortable, at times, in their majority-white environmental contexts, but aware of their ability to affect the political process. Despite the similarities between the two social organizations’ members, this chapter has confirmed the findings from chapter 5: Boulé and Links produce quite different involvements in the political process among their members as compared to other men and women. In addition, the mechanisms that bring about these modes of participation vary. For archons, civic skills and political interest garnered from membership are the main determinants of bringing about their electoral and (minor) non-electoral

political engagement. For those in Links, political recruitment and civic skills are the main explanatory mechanisms for their active non-electoral participation. The major finding from this chapter, though, may not be the specific mechanisms; reather, the main finding may be that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the relationship between membership and participation – for both organizations – appears to be causal and in the expected direction of causality.


Figure 6.1: Pictured from left to right are the former Presidential candidate Barack Obama, Archousa Lisa Grain and Archon David Grain of Sarasota’s Gamma Xi Boulé. This photograph shows Archon David Grain, the host, speaking with Obama at a private campaign fundraiser hosted at the Grain’s “Mediterranean-style Sarasota bayfront home on Bird Key.” November 5, 2007 (The Boulé Journal 2008).



Figure 6.4: As part of the Links International Trends and Services program, the organization has built over 50 schools in South Africa. A group of 112 links visited 6 of these schools in 2008. A few of the links from this visit are pictured in the background as they listen to a musical performance by South African school children. (Links 2009b).


Archon Percy Julian’s 1964 reference to the men of Boulé as “faultless prophets” – men who are brilliant, learned and successful, yet intent on distancing themselves from the black masses and mainstream society – was a satirical criticism of not only Sigma Pi Phi, but also elite black social organizations in general. Archons, as well as links, were indicted in Julian’s strong condemnation of those elitist elements of the black community that he believed were sitting on the sidelines of the struggle for black inclusion and equality in the American polity. While most studies of such organizations have treated them as if they are static, suspended in a timeless era of the early to middle twentieth century, this study has found that these organizations have evolved, altered their missions and attempted to socialize their members to the importance of both protest and politics in the struggle for black advancement and political participation. Both Boulé and Links have succeeded – to an extent.


As a result of their membership in Sigma Pi Phi, archons are more likely than other similarly-situated black men to participate in the electoral political process and engage in traditional forms of political participation. Links membership, on the other hand, brings about a greater engagement in the nonelectoral political process. Not only do these findings reveal that these organizations bring about elite black participation in mainstream politics (a major worry of Bayard Rustin), but also these findings show that protest politics is not dead. This form of external engagement still has a place in black politics and, more surprisingly, among the black upper class. As a whole, elite organizations provide the civic skills, political interest and bases for social recruitment for well-off black Americans who still experience the slights of institutional and interpersonal racism. Through these mechanisms, their members are able to participate more actively in black community betterment and in mainstream electoral and non-electoral civic engagement to varying degrees. While it is unclear whether or not these organizations bring about greater political group consciousness in their members, the qualitative data implies that they take already racially-conscious individuals (who believe in the need for black advancement) and provide them the tools, resources and black counterpublic space to collectively and individually engage in the political process more effectively. These findings have several implications, both theoretical and practical. This work has served as a revisionist look at several assumptions regarding general voluntary organizations, black elites, and the organizations of the black

elite. The CVM has been shown to be too broad both in its measure of membership and also in its measure of what constitutes political participation. Several other models of political behavior are quite similar to the CVM in that they are also inattentive to black membership in organizations and to the electoral/non-electoral participatory dichotomy. Despite these limitations, the CVM has been revealed to be quite accurate in its discussion of participatory factors. These factors, by and large, are the main mechanisms through which members of elite black social organization participate. Regarding theories of highSES blacks, this thesis has revealed that these blacks not only believe they have obligations to other blacks, but those who are the most elite (highest education and income levels) are the most likely to participate in black organizations. Further, their exclusive organizations are not simply mainstays for the “snobbish” and “aloof.” These organizations, especially Links, are effective sites of organization for black community betterment – to an even greater extent than black advancement organizations, the church and mainstream civic organizations. Finally, the theory that black elites serve as middle-men toward the white power structure on behalf of underclass blacks (McClain 2008; Patillo 2007) is supported by the findings regarding high-SES blacks in the NBES data. While I did not test the extent to which membership in elite organizations increased an individual’s likelihood to engage in mainstream institutions, the NBES data analysis provided evidence that middle class blacks not only affect the political process through membership in black organizations but also they influence it


through membership in mainstream community organizations, where theoretically they interact amongst and bargain with whites. As a final thought, it must be re-stated that these findings are limited. While the evidence is suggestive and compelling (supported by both NBES data and also responses from in-depth interviews), it is not incontrovertible. Future research should take several steps to see if the evidence presented here holds. First, a randomized, national survey of high-SES blacks should be taken and should include measures of both political participation and also a wide array of social/civic associations, particularly elite social organizations. A large, nationally representative sample would permit a more definitive test of my hypotheses about the participatory effects of organizational membership. Second, a broader conception of political participation should be part of this survey. More forms of black “protest,” including community organizing, neighborhood renewal projects and community programs against inner-city violence, should be considered nonelectoral forms of participation. These engagements can have just as much of an effect on the political process (whether by supplanting the need for government or by increasing black efficacy) as electoral forms of participation. Third, this survey should include items that directly measure the participatory factors (civic skills, political interest and political recruitment) that contribute to political participation. And finally, more complicated statistical and econometric analyses should be undertaken in order to understand the direct effect of organizational membership and provide a more rigorous quantitative assessment of the potential directions of causality.

In spite of the limitations, this thesis uncovers the story of the two most prominent elite black social organizations, their members and their participation. The story of these organizations is complicated and, at times, contradictory. While they are the reclusive stomping ground of well-off black Americans, these associations are also spaces where men and women gain the skills, resources and networks to be bold, effective leaders in the political process. The findings presented here suggest that the continued growth of these organizations will have repercussions on the political process and the content of black politics for years to come.


Descriptive Characteristics of NBES Group compared to those of NBISS Control Group.
NBISS High-SES Control Group N=9 Household Income (USD 2007) $80,000-$100,000

NBES High-SES Group N=55₁ Household Income (USD 1996) $50,000-$75,000 $75,000-$90,000 $90,000-$105,000 $105,000 or greater Education Associates or Bachelors degree Graduate school or higher Gender Male Female Age 41-50 51-60 61-70 Black Advancement Organization Yes, a member Linked Fate Perceptions₂ A lot Some Not very much None Voting Behavior Did Vote (1996 Presidential) Did Not Vote (1996 Presidential)

50.9% 21.8% 10.9% 16.4%

1 (12.5%)

$100,000 or greater Education Associates or College degree Graduate school or higher Gender Male Female Age 41-50 51-60 61-70 Black Advancement Organization Yes, a member Linked Fate Perceptions₂ A lot A good amount Not very much None at all Voting Behavior Did Vote (2004 Presidential) Did Not Vote (2004 Presidential)

7 (87.5%)

65.4% 34.6%

2 (22.2%) 7 (77.8%)

47.3% 52.7%

4 (44.4%) 5 (55.6%)

63.6% 27.3% 9.1%

2 (22.2%) 6 (66.7%) 1 (11.1%)


6 (66.7%)

29.1% 52.7% 14.5% 3.6%

3 (33.4%) 5 (55.6%) 1 (11%) 0 (0%)

92.7% 7.3%

8 (100%) 0 (0%)

1: This number is the number of respondents from the NBES who have similar SES to the black respondents of the NBISS (those in Boulé, those in Links and those who are friends of Boulé and Links members). The respondents had to have attained at least an associates degree, have a yearly household income of at least $75,000 USD 1996 and be between the ages of 41 and 70. The number of respondents from the NBES represented in this table are 4% of the NBES respondents, of which there are 1,216. 2: This question was worded slightly differently within each study. NBES worded the question as: "Do you think that what happens generally to Black people in this country will have something to do with what happens in your life? " The NBES gave the respondents the opportunity to say "Yes" or "No." This most likely increased the "No" answers, as respondents were not given the opportunity to realize that they could gradate their answers in a follow-up question if they answered "Yes." The NBISS worded the question as exactly as NBES, but provided a gradated scale immediately in one question.


Three Measures of “High-SES”: NBES Descriptive Data
High-SES (Income and Education)

High-SES (Income)

High-SES (Education)

Household Income (USD 1996 Up to $10,000 $10,000-$25,000 $25,000-$40,000 $40,000-$50,000 $50,000-$75,000 $75,000-$90,000 $90,000-$105,000 $105,000 or greater Education Some high school or less H.S. degree or some college Associates or Bachelors Degree Some graduate school or higher Black Advancement Organization Yes, a member

N/A N/A N/A N/A 50.91% 21.82% 10.91% 16.36%

N/A N/A N/A N/A 58.16% 17.35% 13.27% 11.22%

1.61% 14.52% 19.35% 20.16% 22.58% 9.68% 4.84% 7.26%

N/A N/A 65.45% 34.55%

2.04% 41.84% 36.73% 19.39%

N/A N/A 67.18% 32.82%

69.09% N = 55

56.70% N = 98

60.77% N = 131


Predicting Group Political Consciousness: NBISS Expanded Models for Each Dependent Variable

Blacks can affect gov't through political action Regression Coefficient (RSE)

Blacks should work together Regression Coefficient (RSE)

Importance of giving back to black community Regression Coefficient (RSE)

Blacks should support blackowned businesses Regression Coefficient (RSE)

Membership (Boulé) Membership (Links) * Significant at .1 level ** Significant at .05 level *** Significant at .01 level

.42 (.26)

- .04 (.06)

-.04 (.18)

.03 (.23)

- .05 (.26)

- .12 (.07)

.16 (.38)

.14 (.32)

Note: The models control for household income, education, gender, black advancement organization membership, non-racial organization membership, and church membership.


NBISS Cross-Tabulations of Membership with Each Political Act (in numbers of respondents)
Voter Registration or Other Drive Yes No Volunteer in Political Campaign Yes No

Rally/ March Yes No

Letter to Politician Yes No

Donate to a Campaign Yes No

Member (Boulé) Non-Member





















Member (Links) Non-Member























* The questions provided below include the majority of the survey questions asked, except those that were completely inconsequential to this analysis. The coding of these variables is also included, where appropriate. The variables that were placed into the indices of traditional political participation, electoral political participation and non-electoral participation are included below and denoted as such. ** The only difference in the phase 2 questions were (1) the question regarding age – as age was not asked in Phase 1 (the members survey) and (2) the questions that were specific to Boulé/ Links (e.g., “Please indicate how many years you have been a member of [Boulé or Links]) were also not asked. Question: Membership [this question was never asked explicitly because I mailed phase 1 surveys to those whom I knew to be members and phase 2 surveys to those whom I knew to be nonmembers] __1__ Member of Boulé or Links __0__ Not a member Question: What is your gender? __1__ Male __0__ Female Question: In which country were your parents born? __1__ The United States __0__ Other (please write in) Question: What is the highest level of education you have attained? __X__ No high school degree __X__ high school degree or GED __X__ some college __0__ college degree or associates degree __1__ graduate school or higher Question: What was your household income in 2007? __0__ Less than $40,000 __1__ $40,000-$60,000 __2__ $60,000-$80,000 __3__ $80,000-$100,000 __4__ $100,000 or greater For questions X and Y, please think of your network of close friends. Think about the people you interact with most, the people whose houses you go to often, the people whose children you have seen grow up, etc. Question X: How would you describe the racial composition of your network of close friends? (un-coded) ____ Mostly White ____ Mostly Black ____ Mostly Another race ____ An even mixture of races Question Y: How many close white friends do you have? (un-coded) ____ A lot ____ A fair amount ____ Very few


Question: Were you a member of Jack and Jill as a child OR a father? (un-coded) ____ Both ____ As a father ____ As a child ____ Neither Question: Did you attend a historically black college or university (HBCU)? (un-coded) ____ Did not attend college ____ YES ____ NO Question: Are you a member of a national or local black advancement organization, like the NAACP or National Urban League? [included in non-electoral index] __1__ YES __0__ NO Question: Are you active in any civic or social organizations that are non-racial ? __1__ YES __0__ NO Question : If you are, about how many of these non-racial organizations are you active in? __0__ 0 __1__ 1-2 __2__ 3-4 __3__ 5-more Question: How often do you attend church? __0__ Never __1__ A few times a year __2__ Once a month __3__ Once a week __4__ More than once a week Question: How would you describe the racial composition of your workplace? (un-coded) ____ Do not work ____ Mostly White ____ Mostly Black ____ Mostly Another race ____ An even mixture of races Question: How would you best describe the racial composition of your current neighborhood? (un-coded) ____ Mostly White ____ Mostly Black ____ Mostly Another race ____ An even mixture of races Question: How would you describe the racial composition of your high school? (un-coded) ____ Mostly White ____ Mostly Black ____ Mostly Another race ____ An even mixture of races For the next questions, please indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with the following statements. Question: Blacks should support black-owned businesses. __3__ Agree __2__ Somewhat Agree __1__ Somewhat Disagree __0__ Disagree


Question: Blacks need to work together to advance the race. __3__ Agree __2__ Somewhat Agree __1__ Somewhat Disagree __0__ Disagree Question: Poor blacks are poor because they are less motivated, not because of racism or other factors. __3__ Agree __2__ Somewhat Agree __1__ Somewhat Disagree __0__ Disagree Question: Black people can affect government through political action. __3__ Agree __2__ Somewhat Agree __1__ Somewhat Disagree __0__ Disagree Question: You can affect government through political action. __3__ Agree __2__ Somewhat Agree __1__ Somewhat Disagree __0__ Disagree Question: Poor blacks have the same access to government and politics that wealthy blacks have. __3__ Agree __2__ Somewhat Agree __1__ Somewhat Disagree __0__ Disagree Question: Do you think that what happens generally to black people in this country will have something to do with what happens in your life? __3__ A lot __2__ A good amount __1__ Not very much __0__ Nothing at all Question: How important do you think it is to give back to the black community? __3__ Very Important __2__ Important __1__ Somewhat Important __0__ Not Important Question: Do you perform community service? If so, about how often? [included in nonelectoral index] __0__ Never __1__ Once a year __2__ Once a month __3__ Once a week or more Question: Many people do not vote because of time or ability. Did you vote in the 2004 presidential election? __*__ Ineligible to vote __1__ YES __0__ NO Question: Please place a check or an “X” next to all of the activities in which you have participated in the past 5 years. If you have done none of these activities, please leave all choices blank. ____ Participated in a rally [included in traditional and non-electoral indices] ____ Participated in a march [included in traditional and non-electoral indices] ____ Written a letter to your politician [included in traditional and non-electoral indices]


____ Organized a voter-registration drive or other political drive [included in traditional and electoral indices] ____ Volunteered in a campaign [included in traditional and electoral indices] ____ Donated to a campaign or a politician [included in traditional and electoral indices] Question: Do you consider yourself to be black first, then American or the other way around? (un-coded) ____ I am American first, then black ____ I am black first, then American Question: Do you consider yourself to be black first, then a woman, or the other way around? (un-coded) ____ I am a woman first, then black ____ I am black first, then a woman Question: Please place a check or an “X” next to all of the positions you have held/ activities you have participated in as a member of Boulé. (Boulé only) ____ Attend meetings/dinners regularly ____ Have chaired or currently chair a committee ____ Held or helped to plan a major social gathering Question: Please place a check or an “X” next to all of the positions you have held/ activities you have participated in as a member of Links. (Links only) ____ A member of a facet or committee ____ Have put in volunteer time required ____ An elected officer Question: Please indicate how many years you have been a member of Boulé/Links. ____ years Question: What is your age range? (Phase 2 only) ____ 18-30 years ____ 31-40 years ____ 41-50 years ____ 51-60 years ____ 61-70 years ____ greater than 71 years old

* Below are all of the interview questions in full and in the order asked. “Thank you for agreeing to participate in this interview . . . In your answers to each question, please answer as accurately and to the best of your ability as you can. I am going to read to you a set of questions exactly as they are worded in order to maintain standardization between each respondent. When you answer each question, try to be as accurate and precise as you possibly can. Your accurate and complete opinions are very valuable. With that in mind, feel free to take as much time as you need with each question. If at any point you have a question, please ask me. Now, let’s begin. First, I will ask you several short demographic questions. DEMOGRAPHIC QUESTIONS: 1. In what year were you born?: 2. How many years have you been a member of the Boulé/Links?:


3. What is your current profession?: 4. Have you had any other past professions?: 5. Please choose from the following choices regarding church attendance. How often do you attend church: never, a few times a year, once a month, once a week, or more than once a week?: 6. Do you have a college degree or an associates degree? 7. Are you or were you a member of a historically black fraternity/sorority during or immediately after college?: 8. Did you attend an HBCU?: 9. Are you a member of a national or local black advancement organization, such as the NAACP or the National Urban League?: 10. How would you describe the racial composition of your neighborhood? Mostly white, Mostly Black, Mostly Another Race or An even mixture of races? 11. How would you describe the racial composition of your workplace? Mostly white, Mostly Black, Mostly Another Race or An even mixture of races? 12. And finally, do you partake in any activities outside of work that you find personally meaningful? Now, for the rest of the interview, I will ask you questions about your own opinions and behavior. Please remember to be as accurate and thorough as possible. Also remember that your responses are confidential. SOCIAL/POLITICAL BEHAVIOR/ BELIEFS QUESTIONS: 1. Think about your network of close friends: the people you interact with most, the people whose houses you go to often, etc. What race are the majority of your close friends? How would you describe the socio-economic background of the majority of your close friends? 2. Do you find it hard to interact with any group of people, such as people of a different age, profession, class, etc.? And if so, why? 3. As you stated above, the majority of your workplace is ________________. Has this fact affected you in any way, negatively or positively? Do you feel comfortable in your work environment and in interacting with your coworkers? Does your workplace have social gatherings? If so, do you partake in them? Why or why not? 4. Outside of work, are you a part of any organizations or institutions that are not focused on black issues particularly? If so, why are you a part of these organizations? Have you learned anything or met any interesting people through these organizations? Did you join these organizations before or after you joined Boulé /Links? 5. Do you believe that most people can be trusted? Why/Why not? 6. Many people don’t have time to participate in community service. What kind of involvement, if any, do you have in community service? What made you become active? 7. Many people don’t have time to stay up to date with politics. How active are you in the political process? By this, I mean, do you pay attention to the candidates, do you vote, have you ever donated to a political campaign, etc.? How important is being active in the political process to you? 8. How would you describe the beliefs, values and customs of blacks in the United States as compared to mainstream society? Are there any differences or similarities? Why/ Why not? 9. How do you view yourself in relation to these beliefs, values and customs that you identify as part of black culture? Do you think that black culture should be preserved?


Do you think that mainstream society views black culture in the way you just described it? How would you describe the culture of upper-class blacks compared to those not as welloff? 10. Are you ever uncomfortable expressing any part of your blackness around non-blacks? 11. Do you consider yourself black first, then American OR American first, then black? 12. [If a Link]: Do you consider yourself black first, then a woman OR a woman first, then black? 13. Do you believe that you have an obligation to help other blacks who are not as well-off as yourself? If so, is there an event or time period that made you realize this obligation? 14. What do you think about Barack Obama? 15. The last few questions are about Boulé / Links. 16. Why did you decide to become a member of the Boulé / Links? 17. Please describe your level of involvement in the Boulé/Links. 18. In your own opinion, what is the purpose of Boulé/Links? 19. Has the Boulé/ Links opened doors for you in your personal, social or professional life? 20. Finally, since being a part of Boulé/ Links has your outlook on life or your activities in life changed in any way?


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