Fredrick C. Harris, associate professor of political science and director of the Center for the Study of African-American Politics at the University of Rochester, has been selected as a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
His work for the 2003-04 year will revolve around the study of memories of significant historical events that affected the lives of African Americans and how they influenced black activism. The project will examine the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 and its role in the collective action taken by African Americans in the early stages of the civil rights movement.
Harris contends that little attention has been given to the mobilizing aspect of Till's murder in black communities outside the South. Instead, civil rights movement scholars have focused on the impact of the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision and the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott. The murder in Mississippi occurred between those two events, and "had a more galvanizing impact on black mobilization than the Brown decision and the bus boycott," says Harris.
One of 21 fellows, Harris will spend the year in residence at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. He is the author of Something Within: Religion in African-American Political Activism (Oxford, 1999), and has contributed to collections on African-American civic life and the civil rights movement. He also is the co-editor of a book series by Oxford University Press titled Transgressing Boundaries: Studies in Black Politics and Black Communities.
On his return to Rochester in fall 2004, Harris will direct the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies at the University of Rochester. The institute was established in 1986 to promote the development of African and African-American studies in undergraduate and graduate education and through advanced research.
Harris earned his master's and doctoral degrees in political science from Northwestern University.