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Doris Wilkinson Award Statement

Doris Wilkinson, Professor of Sociology, University of Kentucky is best known within sociology for her pioneering work on critical race theory and the sociology of health and illness.She has a long and distinguished career of service to the discipline, personal and professional achievements, and public education outreach that together make major contributions to the public understanding of Sociology.She has served as President of the Eastern Sociological Society, Vice President of the American Sociological Association, President of the Society for the Study of Social Problems and President of the District of Columbia Sociological Society. While serving as Executive Associate at the ASA, she was awardeda grant from the National Institute of Education to establish a Research Skills Institute for women and minorities.In addition, she has served on the board of scientific counselors of the National Cancer Institute and was awarded a contract from the Southern Education Foundation to study black colleges and universities.

Professor Wilkinson was a pioneer in the desegregation of the University of Kentucky, enrolling as a freshman a few months after the historic Supreme Court Decision in 1954 and becoming the first African-American student to graduate in 1957.In 1967, she became the first full-time African-American female faculty member at the University.She earned a M.A. in sociology from Western Reserve University in 1960 and a Ph.D. in Medical Sociology from Case Western Reserve University in 1968.In 1985, she earned a Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University.Professor Wilkinson became the founder and first director of the African American Studies and Research Program at the University of Kentucky and founded a Forum for Black Faculty, the Carter G. Woodson Lecture Series and the Black Women’s Conference.

For over 40 years, Professor Wilkinson’s research and writings havehelped to bring to a broad public audience a sociological understanding of race and ethnic relations, class and gender, occupations and professions, and social change and social movements on university campuses and in the society at large.She co-edited Race, Class, & Gender: Common Bonds, Different Voices with Esther Chow and Maxine Baca Zinn, one of the first readers to examine the intersectionality between race, ethnicity, and gender.She edited one of the first works on The Black Male in America and Black Male-White Female. Her work is contained in Imagine a World: Pioneering Black Women Sociologists.With Marvin Sussman, she co-authored Alternative Health Maintenance and Healing Systems for Families. This book emphasizes that alternative health customs and practices do not have to be in conflict with modern medical practices.

Professor Wilkinson creatively uses “social and cultural history exhibits” as a public education tool to convey an understanding of sociological processes. While thumbing through a Lexington City directory from the 1920s Professor Wilkinson became interested in the subject of black physicians in Kentucky. Her curiosity led her to an historical analysis that included studying minutes from meetings of the National Medical Association, the black counterpart of the American Medical Association.This ground-breaking research culminated in a popular 1988 public exhibitionon “Forgotten Pioneers in a SouthernCommunity” that explains how, little more than 30 years after Emancipation Proclamation ten black doctors were able to establish practices in Lexington, Kentucky.In 1989 this social history exhibit was made into a semi-documentary by Kentucky Education Television and also became a much sought after display at local, state and national libraries and museums. Additionally, her research produced two general education reference resources, the 1998 Directory of African Americans in Lexington, Kentucky, and a Guide to the African American Heritage Trail in Downtown Lexington, Kentucky.

Professor Wilkinson is recognized for the “application” of her writings and research outside of sociology. In the mid-1990’s, she joined the widely publicized U.S. Census racial identity debate.Her 1990 Society article on “Americans of African Identity” and 2000 Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare article, ”Rethinking the Concept of Minority” have often been quoted in the print media.Her opinions have also been sought on “who should decide how a population should identify itself?”

Professor Wilkinson’s accomplishments are particularly compelling when viewed from the exclusionary educational, economic, legal, social, and racial context in which they occurred.Her research connects with historical and contemporary issues of great public interest making her findings easily engaging to a broader audience.Professor Wilkinson represents both excellence in sociological scholarship and also in the “promotion of the public knowledge and understanding of sociology.”