A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations

The A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations was created in 1995 to perpetuate the work of a man who had devoted his life to the idea of racial parity. As professor and chair of sociology at Arizona State University, A. Wade Smith worked tirelessly to improve race relations on the ASU campus and within the greater community.

When he died from cancer at the age of 43, his wife, family members and friends made memorial gifts to establish and fund this lecture series. The 2020 lecture marks the 25th anniversary of the lecture series.

2020 lecture

Featuring: Dr. Aldon Morris
Leon Forrest Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Northwestern University

Scholarship and Activism: The Lessons of W. E. B. Du Bois in the Age of Trumpism
Friday, April 14, 2017, 7 p.m.
College Avenue Commons, Auditorium
ASU Tempe campus

Free and open to the public. Seating is limited and on a first come, first served basis. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.

Dr. Aldon Morris, the Leon Forrest Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Northwestern University, will offer a critical and insightful view of scholarship and activism while focusing on the lessons of W. E. B. Du Bois in the age of Trumpism at the 22nd annual A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations.

The lecture will be held on Friday, April 14 at 7 p.m. in the College Avenue Commons Auditorium on the Tempe campus.

Dr. Aldon Morris' interests include race, social inequality, religion, politics, W. E. B. Du Bois and social movements. Dr. Morris is the author of the award-winning book, “The Origins of the Civil rights Movement,” which won the Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Award from the American Sociological Association. He is co-editor of two volumes, “Frontiers in Social Movement Theory” and “Opposition Consciousness.”

Dr. Morris’ book, “The Scholar Denied: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Birth of American Sociology,” was published in 2015 by the University of California Press. In 2015, it won the R.R. Hawkins Award from The Association of American Publishers.

In 2016, “The Scholar Denied” received the Oliver Cox Distinguished Book Award from the American Sociological Association’s Section on Race and Ethnic Minorities. “The Scholar Denied” has been the subject of numerous symposia and scholarly reviews. Morris has published widely on a variety of topics addressing race, social movement, inequality and the science of sociology.

Dr. Morris is former chair of sociology, director of Asian American studies and interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University. Dr. Morris is committed to an emancipatory sociology that addresses social inequality and points to solutions for greater human freedom.

Founded in 1995, the A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations' past speakers have included civil rights attorney Lani Guinier, producer and humanitarian Danny Glover, and racial activist Tim Wise.

Past lectures

The primary purpose of the A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture Series is to promote improved race relations on the Arizona State University campus and within the greater Phoenix metropolitan area community. The lecture is free to the public and is designed to recognize and perpetuate the dream and work of A. Wade Smith, a respected scholar and former chair of the department of sociology at ASU who devoted his life and career to achieving racial and social parity.

Smith’s efforts began with his undergraduate work at Dartmouth and continued through his graduate work at the University of Chicago and his teaching career at the University of South Carolina. He joined the ASU faculty in 1981.

At the time of his death in 1994, Smith was chair of the ASU Campus Environment Team. When he died from cancer at the age of 43, he was most concerned and agitated about the work he was leaving undone. Elsie Moore, his widow and an ASU professor of psychology in education, decided to turn her grief into action and chose to perpetuate Smith’s legacy and work by initiating an endowment to support an annual community lecture on race relations. A campaign to permanently endow the annual A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations is an ongoing effort by friends, family, colleagues and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

ASU invites nationally prominent individuals to present the annual lecture and to visit the campus to discuss race relations in the United States. Past lecturers include:

2019 Dr. Mamie E. Locke The 2019 lecture with Dr. Locke, professor of political science at Hampton University and member of the Virginia State Senate, unfortunately did not take place as it had to be canceled due to a last-minute emergency. 

2018 Isabel Wilkerson, journalist and author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. Wilkerson won the Pulitzer Prize for her work as Chicago Bureau Chief of The New York Times in 1994, making her the first black woman in the history of American journalism to win a Pulitzer Prize and the first African American to win for individual reporting.

2017 Dr. Aldon Morris, the Leon Forrest Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Northwestern University, spoke about scholarship and activism while focusing on the lessons of W. E. B. Du Bois.

2016 Dr. Eddie S. Glaude Jr., the William S. Tod Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton University, offered a critical and insightful view on the problems currently facing black America at the 21st annual A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations. Glaude is widely regarded as one of the most important black intellectuals in the United States.

2015 Dr. Walter R. Allen, distinguished professor of education and sociology at UCLA, discussed the policing of African-American men on college campuses at the 20th annual A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations. Allen earned his doctorate and master's degree from the University of Chicago in sociology and his bachelor's degree in sociology at Beloit College in Wisconsin. Allen has done extensive research on higher education, race and ethnicity, family patterns, social inequality and the African diaspora.

2014 Lani Guinier, civil rights attorney and first tenured African-American woman professor at Harvard. Lani Guinier, the Bennett Boskey Professor of Law, became the first African-American female tenured professor at Harvard Law School when she joined the faculty there in 1998. She was on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania Law School for 10 years before coming to Harvard. She has used her public platform to write five books, including her most recent book "The Miner's Canary," co-authored with Gerald Torres. She co-founded the Racetalks Initiative, a research and public education project that seeks to develop new interdisciplinary paradigms for linking racial and gender justice to the project of building more inclusive institutions.

2013 Danny Glover, actor, producer and humanitarian Danny Glover has been a commanding presence on screen, stage and television for more than 25 years. As an actor, his film credits range from the blockbuster “Lethal Weapon” franchise, the critically-acclaimed “Dreamgirls,” “The Color Purple” and the futuristic “2012” to smaller independent features, some of which Glover has produced.

2012 Tim Wise, leading anti-racist writer, educator and activist; authored five books; received the 2001 British Diversity Award for best feature essay on race issues; provides anti-racism training and education world-wide. Wise's writings have appeared in dozens of popular, professional and scholarly journals.
Topic: "Race Relations" (April 17, 2012)

2011 Walter Mosley, best known for Devil in a Blue Dress and other popular mysteries featuring detective Easy Rawlins;  one of the most powerful and prolific writers working today in any genre; author of more than 35 books, ranging from the crime novel to literary fiction, nonfiction, political essay, young adult and science fiction.
Topic: "The Only True Race is the Human Race" (April 5, 2011)

2010 Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw, Professor of law at UCLA and Columbia University, co-founder of the African American Policy Forum and leading authority in the area of civil rights, Black feminist theory, and race, racism, and the law.
Topic: “Educating All Our Children: A Constitutional Perspective” (April 8, 2010)

2009 Dr. Julianne Malveaux, President, Bennett College for Women, renowned writer, commentator and economist
Topic: “Unfinished Business: Immigration’s Economic Impact on America” (March 30, 2009)

2008 Leonard Pitts, Jr., Pulitzer prize winning columnist, The Miami Herald
Topic: "Race, Politics, and The Drama of Obama" (April 7, 2008)

2007 Darlene Clark Hine, Board of Trustees Professor of African American Studies, professor of history and inaugural director of the Center for African American History at Northwestern University; John A. Hannah Distinguished Adjunct Professor of History, Michigan State University
Topic: “From Respectability to Respect: Black Women’s Civic Culture and Consciousness in Jim Crow America” (March 22, 2007)

2006 Robin Kelley, William B. Ransford Professor of Cultural and Historical Studies, Columbia University
Topic: “Another Reconstruction: Debating Reparations and Race in Post-Katrina America” (March 23, 2006)

2005 Christopher Edley, Jr., dean of the Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley
Topic: “Race, Policy and the Political Process” (April 19, 2005)

2004 Ray Suarez, senior correspondent for “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer”
Topic: “The Changing Face of America” (April 5, 2004)

2003 Johnnetta Cole, president of Bennett College and Emory University professor emerita as a Presidential Distinguished Professor
Topic: Affirmative Action (March 27, 2003)

2002 Mary Frances Berry, Chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought, University of Pennsylvania
Topic: “Race Relations in America” (April 22, 2002)

2001 Michael Eric Dyson, Ida B. Wells Barnett University Professor, DePaul University
Topic: “Race Rules” (April 23, 2001)

2000 Roger Wilkins, Clarence J. Robinson Professor of History and American Culture, George Mason University
Topic: “Building Humane Communities: A Project Spanning the Centuries” (April 5, 2000)

1999 Henry Louis Gates Jr., chair, Afro-American Studies Department, Harvard University
Topic: “Race and Class in America” (April 30, 1999)

1998 Morris Dees, civil rights lawyer and co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center
Topic: “Teaching Tolerance” (February 11, 1998)

1996 William Julius Wilson, Director, Center for the Study of Urban Inequality, University of Chicago
Topic: “The New Urban Poverty and Retreat From Public Policy”

1995 Cornel West, Professor, Harvard University
Topic: “Race Matters”


The A. Wade Smith Community Award For The Advancement Of Race Relations was created in 2005 and is given to an individual who demonstrates a passion for race relations, a concern for building a better world and who works in the community to advance race relations in Arizona.

Award Recipients

2017  Rufus Glasper

2016 The Hon. Cecil B. Patterson

2015 The Hon. Leah N. Landrum Taylor

2014 Lincoln J. Ragsdale, Sr.

2013 J. Eugene Grigsby, Jr.

2012 Don Logan

2010 Gene Blue

2009 David Hemphill

2008 Doris Marshall

2007 Raner C. Collins

2006 Betty Fairfax

          Jean Fairfax

2005 Elsie Moore

Support the A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture

ASU seeks to increase the lecture series endowment to a level that will sustain it in perpetuity. To support the lecture, please consider making a charitable contribution through the ASU Foundation's giving page.

For more information about the lecture series, please email thecollegeevents@asu.edu.