who we are

Network Director
Alford Young, Jr., PhD – University of Michigan

Alford Young Jr.’s social research helps answer pressing questions about how urban African American men view their community, social position, and place in the job market. An Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in Sociology and Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, Young is also Chair of the University of Michigan’s Department of Sociology (effective July 1, 2010). He currently serves on the editorial boards of Sociological Theory and Racial and Ethnic Studies. He is the director and founder of the Scholars’ Network.

Select Publications
The Minds of Marginalized Black Men: Making Sense of Mobility, Opportunity, and Future Life Chances (2004).

Internet/Media Links
Princeton University Press book description of Minds of Marginalized Black Men review

William Jelani Cobb, PhD – Spelman College

William Jelani Cobb has made his mark in the field in multiple ways as historian, essayist, cultural critic, and delegate. An Associate Professor of History, Cobb specializes in post-Civil War African American history, 20th century American politics, and the history of the Cold War. At the 2008 Democratic National Convention, he served as a delegate and historian for the 5th Congressional District. He is a recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright and Ford Foundations, and has been a featured commentator on National Public Radio, CNN, Al-Jazeera, CBS News, and other national news outlets.

Select Publications
To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic (2007) – finalist for the National Award for Arts Writing
The Devil & Dave Chappelle and Other Essays (2007)
The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress (forthcoming)
• Articles and essays in Essence magazine, Vibe, Ebony, the Washington Post, the Progressive, and

Internet/Media Links

Jennifer F. Hamer, PhD – University of Kansas

An informed discussion has eluded the public regarding African-American fathers who did not live with their children; Jennifer F. Hamer’s research helps fill in the picture. A professor of American Studies, she studies Black families from urban, low-income, and working class backgrounds. She is a former co-chair of the Black Radical Congress and former editor of Race & Society, the official journal of the Association of Black Sociologists, and also the founding editor of Black Women, Gender and Families, a new Black women’s studies journal.

Select Publications
What it Means to Be Daddy: Fatherhood for Black Men Living Away from Their Children (2001)
Abandoned in the Heartland: Work, Family, and Living in East St. Louis (2011).

Internet/Media Links review of What It Means to Be Daddy

John L. Jackson, Jr., PhD – University of Pennsylvania

John Jackson, Jr., utilizes ethnographic research and cultural criticism to delve into the heart of race, class, and religion. He is the Richard Perry University Professor of Communication and Anthropology in the Annenberg School for Communication and the Department of Anthropology, and has received research funding from the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Harvard University’s Milton Fund, and the Lilly Endowment. He brings his ethnographic perspective to the areas of mass media, its impact on urban life, and the ways that religious organizations can use media to build community and proselytize. He is currently conducting research on Black Hebrew Israelites in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Dimona (Israel).

Select Publications
Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness (2008)
Real Black: Adventures in Racial Sincerity
Harlemworld: Doing Race and Class in Contemporary Black America

Internet/Media Links
Blog for Chronicle of Higher Education
Website for Racial Paranoia
Video segment of Jackson discussing Racial Paranoia
Video segment of Jackson discussing his current research

Sean Joe, PhD – University of Michigan

The service and scholarship of Dr. Sean Joe attest to his commitment to address the high incidence of suicide among Black males. A nationally recognized authority on suicidal behavior among African Americans, Dr. Joe holds a joint position as assistant professor in the School of Social Work and the Department of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine. His current research projects focus on Black adolescents’ mental health service use patterns, the role of religion in Black suicidal behavior, and father-focused interventions to prevent self-destructive behaviors. He has received the Edwin Shneidman Award from the American Association of Suicidology and the Early Career Achievement Award from the Society for Social Work and Research.

Select Publications
• “Suicide Patterns among Black Males,” article in Against the Wall: Poor, Young, Black, and Male, ed. Elijah Anderson (2008)

Internet/Media Links
Dr. Joe’s Research Laboratory on Race and Self-Destructive Behavior

Waldo E. Johnson, Jr., PhD – University of Chicago

Waldo E. Johnson Jr.’s track record testifies to his deep aspiration for connecting the often estranged worlds of research and social service. As a researcher, Johnson has collaborated with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Chicago Community Trust’s African American Male Initiative, and the African-American Initiative of the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, and he formerly served as past director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture (CSRPC). His investigations focus on male roles and involvement in African American families, nonresident fathers in fragile families, and the physical and psychosocial health statuses of African American males. He is currently associate professor at the School of Social Service Administration (SSA).

Select Publications
Social Work with African American Males: Health, Mental Health, and Social Policy (editor, forthcoming)
• “Parental Involvement among African American Fathers: Evidence from the Early Head Start and Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study,” in Research on Social Work Practice (co-author, forthcoming)
• “Masculinity and Sexual Identity: Making Meaning of Paternal Identity among Young African American Males,” in Journal of African American Men (co-author, forthcoming)

Internet/Media Links
“Boys to Men”: An SSA Magazine interview with Johnson

Athena Mutua, LLM – University of Buffalo Law School

Athena Mutua serves as the Scholars Network’s legal expert, focusing on the areas of critical race and feminist legal theory. She received the University of Buffalo Exceptional Scholars Young Investigator's Award for her research on a Kenyan women’s solidarity campaign. A Professor of Law, she has a JD and MA from the American University and an LLM from Harvard Law School.

Select Publications
Progressive Black Masculinities (editor, 2006)
• “Restoring Justice to Civil Rights Movement Activists: New Historiography and the ‘Long Civil Rights Era,’” in Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper Series (2008)
• “Introducing ClassCrits: Rejecting Class-Blindness, A Critical Legal Analysis of Economic Inequality,” in Buffalo Law Review (2008)

Internet/Media Links
Mutua’s introduction to Progressive Black Masculinities

Mark Anthony Neal, PhD – Duke University

Mark Anthony Neal’s ongoing analysis of Black masculinity is accessible in the lecture hall, the bookstore, and the blogosphere. Professor of Black Popular Culture in the Department of African and African-American Studies, Neal specializes in interdisciplinary research in the fields of African-American, cultural, and gender studies. He is also a frequent commentator for National Public Radio and contributes to several online media outlets, including, The, and Along with managing his own blog, NewBlackMan, he is also the author of four books.

Select Publications
What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture (1998)
Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic (2002)
Songs in the Keys of Black Life: A Rhythm and Blues Nation (2003)
New Black Man: Rethinking Black Masculinity (2005)

Internet/Media Links author page

Pedro Noguera, PhD – New York University

Few urban education experts have as much resonance with their audiences as Pedro Noguera. He wears multiple hats as a professor in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, and the co-Director of the Institute for the study of Globalization and Education in Metropolitan Settings (IGEMS). His scholarship and research focus on the ways in which schools are influenced by social and economic conditions in the urban environment, and Black youth and other minorities are often his primary focus groups. Noguera has served as an advisor and engaged in collaborative research with several large urban school districts, and between 2000 and 2003, he served as the Judith K. Dimon Professor of Communities and Schools at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Select Publications
City Schools and the American Dream: Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education (2003)
Unfinished Business: Closing the Racial Achievement Gap in Our Schools (editor, 2008)
The Trouble with Black Boys: And Other Reflections on Race, Equity, and the Future of Public Education (2008)

Internet/Media Links
Noguera profile from the film Beyond the Bricks
Book description of The Trouble With Black Boys with book excerpts

Deirdre Royster, PhD – New York University

Much of Deirdre A. Royster’s research charts the area where race relations and the labor market meet. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. An award-winning instructor, she previously taught at the College of William and Mary, where she chaired the Department of Sociology and directed the Center for the Study of Inequality and the Black Studies Program. Her research interests include sociological areas such as racism and racial stratification, economic sociology/urban political economy, public policy, race/class/gender studies, and labor markets. Her book Race and the Invisible Hand received the 2004 Oliver Cromwell Cox Best Book Award.

Select Publications
Race and the Invisible Hand: How White Networks Exclude Black Men from Blue Collar Jobs (2003)

Internet/Media Links book description of Race and the Invisible Hand

Sudhir Venkatesh, PhD – Columbia University

A documentary filmmaker and an award-winning author, Sudhir Venkatesh is a versatile sociologist who will take bold action to claim a better perspective of his subjects. His research methods, which have included “going rogue” in a housing project for seven years, help contextualize urban poverty and underground economies. His books have received multiple awards, including the Best Book award from the Economist. Along with making regular media appearances on networks like C-SPAN and PBS, he is also a frequent guest contributor to the New York Times’ Freakonomics blog. Finally, he maintains several academic positions as William B. Ransford Professor of Sociology, Director of Columbia University’s Youth and Globalization Collaborative Research Network at the Social Science Research Council, and Director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy.

Select Publications
American Project: The Rise and Fall of a Modern Ghetto (2002)
Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor (2006)
Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets (2008)

Internet/Media Links
Press for Gang Leader for a Day
Press for Off the Books
Website for the film Dislocation