Sociologist William Julius Wilson to speak for Assembly Series

William Julius Wilson, PhD, the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University, will present this year’s Chancellor’s Fellows Lecture, “Race and Affirmative Opportunity in the Barack Obama Era” at 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 27, in Graham Chapel for the Assembly Series. His talk is free and open to the public.


An eminent sociologist and author, Wilson has been studying the conditions of life in the American inner city for nearly four decades. His groundbreaking 1996 book, When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor, illustrated in startling detail the death blow delivered to inner city inhabitants by the loss of unskilled but living wage jobs in their own communities.

Wilson is interested in developing solutions for surmounting the “equal playing field” dilemma and getting past the heated rhetoric. In his presentation, he will survey the landscape of racial- and class-based preferences, then discuss the pros and cons of current affirmative action programs versus the adoption of a more flexible, merit-based evaluation.

A past president of the American Sociological Association and a MacArthur Prize Fellow from 1987-1992, Wilson has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Education, the American Philosophical Society, the Institute of Medicine and the British Academy. He is a recipient of the 1998 National Medal of Science, the highest scientific honor bestowed by the U.S. government.

Wilson is the author of several books, including The Declining Significance of Race, The Truly Disadvantaged and The Bridge Over the Racial Divide: Rising Inequality and Coalition Politics.

Most recently, he co-wrote There Goes the Neighborhood: Racial, Ethnic, and Class Tensions in Four Chicago Neighborhoods and Their Meaning for America, and Good Kids in Bad Neighborhoods: Successful Development in Social Context.

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