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Aldon Morris Award Statement

Professor Aldon D. Morris is the 2009 recipient of the ASA’s Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award, named for African American sociologists Oliver Cromwell Cox, Charles S. Johnson and E. Franklin Frazier. Each of this award’s namesakes were engaged scholars and institution builders; they challenged racism and sought to enhance the understanding, status, and well-being of African American communities and individuals. While this award can recognize outstanding institutions as well as individuals, this year, the Cox-Johnson-Frazier award recognizes an outstanding individual whose lifetime of research, teaching, and service to the community exemplifies the tradition of these namesakes. Through path-breaking scholarship that challenges and, when necessary, overturns conventional thinking; humane, inclusive, and transformative teaching and mentoring; constructive and peaceful direct confrontation in pursuit of social justice; and longstanding public engagement in service of building and transforming institutions to better include and serve all communities, Dr. Aldon D. Morris truly embodies this living tradition of critical public engagement.

Within four years of earning his Ph.D. from SUNY-Stonybrook, Professor Morrispublished the timeless classic The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement: Black Communities Organizing for Change. The recipient of multiple best book awards and other scholarly recognition, Origins challenged reigning sociological orthodoxy on the Civil Rights Movement by documenting the multiple ways black communities, north and south, strategically employed their own resources, institutions, networks, and innovations to collectively disrupt state-sanctioned racism in the United States. Morris’ examination of cooperation and conflict within the Civil Rights Movement and between black movement leaders and anti-racist white-led institutions broke new ground.In countless public lectures, in the years since, and in three additional co-edited books and numerous articles, chapters, and reports, Morris has explored the promise of contemporary justice movements in light of the Civil Rights Movement’s legacies. Equally committed to bringing greater understanding and recognition of W.E.B. DuBois, Professor Morris’ most recent articles, presentations, and campaign to name the ASA’s Distinguished Career of Scholarship award after DuBois have resulted in far greater awareness of DuBois’s long, brave history of intense public engagement (national and international) and formidable, but remarkably under-appreciated, corpus of scholarship.

One of today’s great public sociologists, Professor Morris not only honors, but also actively extends DuBois’s legacy. By organizing scholarly panels highlighting social movement contributions of women and trade unionists of color; raising funds to develop African American historical archives; participating in Global South conferences (to make public and improve pre- and post-apartheid South Africa conditions); consulting on the award-winning documentary series, “Eyes on the Prize;” and regularly serving as a radio and television broadcast guest (local and national programs), first-generation ASA Minority fellow, Aldon Morris, inspires future generations (as did DuBois) to pass on to others what was passed on to him.

Widely known as a warm, generous, accessible, direct, imaginative, humorous, and highly effective teacher, mentor, advocate, and collaborator, Professor Morris’ nominators (and the awards committee concurs) offer special praise for his longstanding choice to use whatever influence comes with leadership roles he assumes (and there have been dozens) to expand awareness and inclusion of scholars of color and others too often relegated to the margins of the discipline, academy, and society. Professor Morris’ advocacy is evident in the expanded presence and ASA leadership roles many younger scholars of color have recently assumed.

Years of tireless service have earned Professor Morris the deep respect of his peers, as evidenced by honors he has received and continuing calls for his leadership. A few highlights: Professor Morris has twice been asked to run for ASA Vice President—and once for ASR editor.So far, he’s chosen instead to serve as a member of one or more demanding ASA committee (such as Nominations, Program, Committee on Committees, Council, etc.) for nearly each of the last twenty years. From 1986-88, he served as President of the Association of Black Sociologists (ABS), receiving its Outstanding Leadership Award in 1988 and Certificate of Leadership Award in 1995. Since 2003, Professor Morris has served as Associate Dean for Faculty at Northwestern University, where he previously directed the Asian American Studies Program (2002-05), chaired the Sociology Department (1992-97), and served on the Center for Afro-American and African Studies’ Executive Committee (1984-88).

The Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award Committee enthusiastically and unanimously commends Professor Morris for his longstanding service to multiple communities, within and beyond the academy; his influential and vital body of classic and continuing research on the origins and multi-generational influences of the Black Protest Movement; and his leadership challenging social injustice and the exclusion and under-recognition of scholars of color. May his example continue to remind us of the importance of lifting our individual and collective voices to speak truth to power.