UA Professor Honored for Dedication to Anti-Racist Scholarship

  • December 6th, 2012

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Dr. Bobby Wilson, a professor in the department of geography at The University of Alabama, has been named the recipient of the 2012 Presidential Achievement Award, given by the Association of American Geographers, for his career-long dedication to anti-racist scholarship in geography.

AAG is the predominant national scholarly organization in geography.

In announcing the award, the AAG stated, “For four decades, Bobby Wilson has been devoted to empirically rich, politically engaged, and theoretically sophisticated scholarship ranging from issues of housing, urban revitalization, economic development, and social justice for black communities, to sophisticated theoretical appraisals of capitalist processes, social engineering, and neoliberalism.”

The AAG cited Wilson’s extensive work focused on the Civil Rights Movement: “Two major volumes, ‘America’s Johannesburg: Industrialization and Racial Transformation in Birmingham’ and ‘Race and Place in Birmingham: The Civil Rights and Neighborhood Movements’ illustrate his profound contribution to understanding the geography of Birmingham. As the titles convey, his work addresses both the large-scale processes of economic, political, social transformation, and the on-the-ground social movements that respond,” the AAG stated.

Wilson will receive the award at the AAG’s annual meeting in Los Angeles April 9-13.

Wilson is noted for his work in exploring issues of housing, urban revitalization, economic development, and social justice for black communities. During his doctoral studies at Clark University, Wilson coauthored his first article “Symposium: Black perspectives on Geography,” which chronicled the efforts of Donald Deskins Jr., an influential geographer at the University of Michigan, in bringing together African-American geographers whose understanding of the discipline and its priorities represented the first public statements of anti-racist geography.

In 2001 Wilson was honored by the Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers for research on the social geography of race in Birmingham. He has also been honored by the Jefferson County Historical Commission of Alabama for outstanding achievement in historic preservation.

The AAG also recognized Wilson’s contributions to anti-racist practices in geography in his development of anti-racist practices in his classroom as well as his efforts to help minority students in historically black institutions thrive in the field.

Over the years he has served on numerous committees and boards to address questions of racism and access within the institutional framework of the discipline of geography. He has served with the Birmingham Regional Health System Agency, Rosedale Community Development Corp. in Birmingham, Birmingham Board of Zoning Adjustment, Sloss Furnace Association and, was a founding president of the Fair Housing Center of Northern Alabama.

Wilson has been a faculty member in The University of Alabama System for more than 35 years, working in the department of geography at the University of Alabama at Birmingham before he joined the department of geography in UA’s College of Arts and Sciences in 2002. He served as interim chair of that department from 2009 to 2011.

The department of geography is part of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.

More information about the AAG can be found on the web at


Kelli Wright, communications specialist, College of Arts and Sciences, 205/348-8539,

The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.