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Anthropologist Awarded Frederick Douglass Medal

January 29, 2013
Yolanda T. Moses
Yolanda Moses

Yolanda Moses

by Dan Wang

The University of Rochester will award the Frederick Douglass Medal to renowned anthropologist Yolanda T. Moses, a leading scholar on the origins of social inequality, former president of the City College of New York, and one of the driving forces behind the creation of the traveling exhibition“RACE: Are We So Different?” currently at the Rochester Museum & Science Center.

“Dr. Moses is eminently qualified to receive this recognition for both her scholarly contributions and the public impact of her service,” said Cilas Kemedjio, director of the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African American Studies, which sponsors the annual award. “Her willingness to serve her discipline and higher education at large is among the most striking aspects of her accomplishments.”

University President Joel Seligman will present the medal to Moses at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 6, in the Hawkins-Carlson Room before her lecture “Social Justice and its Challenges.” A panel discussion with activists and academics follows. The event is free and open to the public.

A professor of anthropology at the University of California at Riverside, Moses studies the origins of social inequality in complex societies through the use of comparative ethnographic and survey methods. She has focused on gender and class disparities in the Caribbean, East Africa, and the United States. More recently, she turned to issues of diversity and change in universities and colleges in the United States, India, Europe and South Africa.

“Like Frederick Douglass, Yolanda Moses has spent her professional life seeking to understand the rationalizations that buttress racial discrimination in the United States and abroad,” said President Seligman. “Her insights make her a compelling advocate for greater diversity in higher education.”

A past president of the American Anthropological Association, Moses is currently the associate vice chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Excellence at the University of California at Riverside. She also is involved in national projects to promote diversity in education with the National Council for Research on Women and the Women of Color Research Collective.

Moses has served as chair of the advisory board for the traveling RACE exhibit, which explores the topic of race through the lens of anthropology, biology, and history. The exhibit helps visitors understand the everyday experience of living with race and provides background on the history of race as an idea. RACE also shares the findings of contemporary science that are challenging the concept of race all together. In Rochester, the exhibit serves as the centerpiece of a community-wide initiative to help understand and break down barriers to equal opportunity.

Moses is a co-author of the exhibit’s companion book and author of the earlier book How Real is Race: A Sourcebook on Race, Culture and Biology (2007). She received her doctorate from the University of California at Riverside and an honorary doctorate from Bloomfield College of

New Jersey.

Created in 2008, the Frederick Douglass medal has been awarded to six prior recipients: Garth Fagan, founder and artistic director of Garth Fagan Dance; Deborah Gray White, professor of history at Rutgers University; Lani Guinier, professor of law at Harvard University; Gerald Torres, professor of law at the University of Texas at Austin; David Kearns, former CEO of Xerox Corp.; and Walter Cooper, retired research scientist at Eastman Kodak Co.

For more information about the award and the panel discussion, contact Eric Phamdo at


About the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies
Established in 1986, the Frederick Dou

glass Institute ( is dedicated to furthering teaching and research in the field of African and African-American Studies. The Institute offers numerous interdisciplinary courses, mostly in the social sciences and humanities, and awards an undergraduate major and minor in African and African-American Studies. A major center of multicultural academic programming at the University, the Institute organizes film and lecture series and supports pre- and post-doctoral research fellows at its campus center.

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