ABSTRACT This dissertation considers external control of non-profit institutions located within African American communities and examines the effect of this control on these institutions as potential sites of representative democracy, leadership development and political agenda setting. The 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 addressed discrimination in public accommodation and brought much needed reform to the electoral process. Through interviews with key stakeholders within non-profit organizations and other methods of data collection and analysis, I explore potential anti-participatory and disenfrancishing forces operating upon African Americans and other people of color, intentionally taking a broad view that goes beyond the formal democratic apparatus of the United States. Does community control of non-profit social service agencies make a difference in the type of leadership, policies and programs implemented in minority communities? If so, what might be some of the systemic mechanisms which cause variation in these outcomes? My research indicates that policy and procedure within the non-profit sector provide at least one locus for the reproduction of discriminatory ideologies and practices. Antithetically, I also observed internal and external circumstances evoking change and responsiveness from these non-governmental organizations. An unexpected finding is a relationship between the anti-communist crusades of the 1940s and 1950s against pan-Africanists, and the subsequent weakening of domestic African American civil society. The extant literature on political power, participation and social capital provide a framework for testing the hypothesis that covert, non-community control over historically Black non-profit institutions has lead to significant losses of organizational sites and other forms of social capital, that might otherwise have been used to advance a racial-justice centered political agenda.