WashU faculty look to advance scholarship on legacies of racial violence

In an effort to advance research and policy addressing legacies of racial violence, three Washington University faculty members — David Cunningham, Hedwig Lee and Geoff Ward — have co-edited a special issue of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

The cover image depicts the old St. Louis City Jail, once located at the intersection of Sixth and Chestnut streets. In 1836, a free black man named Francis McIntosh was abducted from the jail by a white mob and lynched a block away.

Titled “Legacies of Racial Violence: Clarifying and Addressing the Presence of the Past,” the issue builds on a growing body of research into how histories of racialized violence in the United States relate to contemporary conflicts and inequities. 

A primary aim with the volume was to encourage more expansive disciplinary engagement by bringing insights of scholars from the social sciences, humanities, health sciences and other fields together in one volume. Contributors include demographers, economists, epidemiologists, historians, molecular and biological anthropologists, political scientists and sociologists.

“If there is a ‘settled science’ about legacies of racial violence, it is that our violent national history remains relevant to contemporary social relations and outcomes,” write Cunningham, Lee and Ward in the volume’s introduction. “Taken together, contributions to this volume present a mixed methodological assessment of key considerations in the measurement and analysis of how legacies of historical racial violence manifest, are sustained, and might be addressed.”

Founded in 1889, the American Academy of Political and Social Science aims to synthesize and advance research that addresses social challenges. Cunningham is professor and chair of sociology in Arts & Sciences. Lee is professor of sociology and co-director of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity. Ward is professor of African and African-American studies as well as affiliate faculty in sociology and in American culture studies, all in Arts & Sciences.

Support for this collaboration was provided by WashU’s Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy. The project also dovetails with the recently announced WashU & Slavery Project, based in CRE2 and led by Ward, which is working to create a sustained research, teaching and engagement effort that will also deepen understanding of, and remedial responses to, legacies of racial violence.

For more information, visit aapss.org.