Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




This research assembles and organizes the literature in the areas of African-American women, the political economy of racism, the Black feminization of poverty, drug use and distribution, and gang violence. This dissertation explores extant theoretical approaches with a special emphasis on their relationship to the underground economy. The researcher uses ethnographic methods to examine the role that female gang members play in the underclass drug infested community of south central Fort Wayne, Indiana. Of the Black females interviewed, some were drug dealers, others were using illegal drugs, and still others were females who just found themselves in the inner-city, in the middle of these drug dealing gang war zones.

A major finding of the research is that race and class are salient factors in determining gang involvement. Because Black women are one of the most oppressed groups in the United states, they too are entering the informal economy to make money in a society where access to making real money has been denied them. As Black women enter the informal economy, they too will be victims and perpetrators of violent offenses which are an intrinsic part of the informal economy. The research reveals that underclass Black women use a variety of economic means to meet the survival needs of their family. Thus, selling drugs, prostitution and welfare are often combined to support their children. These Black women appear to be assuming many of the attitudes and behaviors hither to associated with males exclusively.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access