Influential Black Sociologists

Influential Black Sociologists

Our list of influential Black sociologists leads the field in research and advocating in areas such as race and technology, women’s studies, social policy, inequality, and more. They are paving the way for the next generation of sociologists.

Top 10 Black Sociologists from the Last 30 Years

  1. Patricia Hill Collins
  2. William Julius Wilson
  3. France Winddance Twine
  4. Lawrence D. Bobo
  5. Bertice Berry
  6. Aldon Morris
  7. Nathan Hare
  8. Bobby William Austin
  9. Maxine Leeds Craig
  10. Chancellor Williams
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According to the American Sociological Association, Sociology is the study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behavior.

Organizations that are important to the field of sociology, like the The Association of Black Sociologists, are working to help advance and support members’ careers, bolster the number of minority sociologists, and increase the sociological knowledge of Black and other underrepresented minority groups.

Diversity in the field of sociology is strong. Black people comprise 13.4% of the total U.S. population, and 18.4% of the bachelor’s degrees awarded in sociology in 2017 were earned by Black students. The influence of the scholars in our list and groups such as those mentioned above have contributed to the strong interest in the field of sociology by Black people.

Chart showing Bachelor's Degrees Awarded in Sociology, by Race, 2017
Source Data: American Sociological Association, Bachelor’s Degrees Awarded in Sociology, by Race or Ethnicity

Black Sociologists Making Important Contributions to the Field

Prominent scholars in the field of sociology, including William Julius Wilson, France Winddance Twine, Aldon Morris, Patricia Hill Collins, and Lawrence Bobo, advocate for and publish in areas such as human rights, social policy, gender, race, poverty, and inequality. Academic work in sociology can often be interdisciplinary as well, and sociologists may research in areas such as the intersection of politics and race, women’s studies as related to race, and African American studies in the context of social issues. Many of the scholars in our list have also explored and ultimately have published works on topics such as protest, the Civil Rights Movement, race and technology, and the Black religious experience.

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25 Influential Black Sociologists From the Last 30 Years

The Black scholars in our list were identified as highly cited and searched people using our machine-powered Influence Ranking algorithm, which produces a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia/data, Crossref, Semantic Scholar and an ever-growing body of data.

Find out more about our Methodology.

List is arranged alphabetically

  1. Bobby William Austin

    1944 - Present (78 years)
    Bobby William Austin is an American sociologist, lecturer, and writer. He is a leading scholar on African-American men and boys and was the first person, as a Program Officer with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, to fund major philanthropic initiatives for African-American men and boys. Over the past 30 years, in the fields of education, social policy, youth development, cultural theory, philanthropy and religion, he has created a series of structured venues as pathways for how citizens might live life in communities as individuals and as members of groups where peace, meaning, and innovation are...
  2. Bertice Berry

    1960 - Present (62 years)
    Bertice Berry is an American sociologist, author, lecturer, and educator. Early life and education Berry grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, as one of seven children raised by a single mother. The family was poor and her mother struggled with alcoholism. In a 1994 article, Berry reflected on her upbringing and her mother’s abusiveness when she was “in one of her frightening stages of drunkenness.” Berry ultimately forgave her mother, writing that “her drinking was a way to mask her own pain. I think of the burden she endured as a black woman with few resources for herself or her children.”
  3. Lawrence D. Bobo

    1900 - Present (122 years)
    Lawrence D. Bobo is the W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences and the Dean of Social Science at Harvard University. His research focuses on the intersection of social psychology, social inequality, politics, and race.
  4. Roy Bryce-Laporte

    1933 - 2012 (79 years)
    Roy Simon Bryce-Laporte was a sociologist who established one of the first African-American studies departments. Roy Simon Laporte was born and raised in the Republic of Panama, of a family of mixed West Indian and African ancestry.
  5. Patricia Hill Collins

    1948 - Present (74 years)

    American sociologist Patrician Hill Collins currently holds the title of University Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park. She previously was a professor of the University of Cincinnati (where she was also head of the Department of African-American Studies). Collins also holds the distinction of being the 100th president of the American Sociological Association, the first African-American woman to do so. Collins completed her BA in sociology at Brandeis University in 1965, her MA in social science education at Harvard in 1970, and her PhD at Brandeis in 1984.

    Collins is known for her work in the intersection of factors such as race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and national origin affect our perceptions of selves and others, as well as opportunities and barriers, and approach better known as intersectionality. In particular, Collins has placed a great deal of focus on how these various factors affect the status and lives of Black people in America. Though Collins did not coin the term "intersectionality" (that can be traced to Kimberlé Crenshaw, one of our most influential figures in law), her work has done a great deal to advance the idea as a critical tool, and explore how it can be implemented to better understand social issues and inequity.

  6. William J. Cousins

    1924 - 2013 (89 years)
    William J. Cousins was an American sociologist who led international urban community development, taught sociology and race relations at several colleges, and wrote a number of books and articles on international community development. Although he was raised in the Baptist Church, he began his affiliation with the Quakers during his university years and became a lifelong pacifist.
  7. Maxine Leeds Craig

    Maxine Leeds Craig is a professor in the Sociology Department at the University of California, Davis . Craig was a doctoral student of Todd Gitlin at the University of California, Berkeley; her doctoral dissertation became the book, Ain’t I a Beauty Queen? Black Women, Beauty, and the Politics of Race . Her second book, Sorry I Don’t Dance: Why Men Refuse to Move , was awarded the 2014 Best Publication Award of the American Sociological Association’s section on Body and Embodiment.
  8. Adelaide M. Cromwell

    1919 - 2019 (100 years)
    Adelaide McGuinn Cromwell was an American sociologist and professor emeritus at Boston University, where she co-founded the African Studies Center in 1959, and directed the graduate program in Afro-American studies from 1969 to 1985. She was the first African-American instructor at Hunter College and at Smith College. In 1974 she was appointed as the first African-American Library Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She has written several books on black history, including a groundbreaking study of Boston’s black upper class and a biography of Adelaide Casely-Hayford. She died...
  9. Nathan Hare

    1933 - Present (89 years)
    Nathan Hare is an American sociologist, activist, academic, and psychologist. In 1968 he was the first person hired to coordinate a Black studies program in the United States. He established the program at San Francisco State. A graduate of Langston University and the University of Chicago, he had become involved in the Black Power movement while teaching at Howard University.
  10. Wilson A. Head

    1914 - 1993 (79 years)
    Wilson A. Head was an American/Canadian sociologist and community planner known for his work in race relations, human rights and peace in the United States, Canada and other parts of the world. Early life Wilson Adonijah Head was born on September 30, 1914, in Milner, Georgia. He “was the son of a Georgia sharecropper, Evander Head , and of Evelyn Whittle , the eldest of five children”; siblings Frank, Marvin, Glenn, and Minnie Head. He was of African American, Northern European, and Cherokee descent. He grew up in deep poverty in the small black community of Milner, near Atlanta. His father ...
  11. Calvin C. Hernton

    1932 - 2001 (69 years)
    Calvin Coolidge Hernton was an American sociologist, poet and author, particularly renowned for his 1965 study Sex and Racism in America, which has been described as “a frank look at the role sexual tensions played in the American racial divide, and it helped set the tone for much African-American social criticism over the following decade.”
  12. Jacquelyne Jackson

    1932 - 2004 (72 years)
    Jacquelyne Mary Johnson Jackson was an American sociologist, educator, and researcher on issues that affect elderly minority populations. She was involved in public policy debates on programs for this group for over 30 years. From 1978 onward she started a dialogue on social security accessibility for elderly minorities in consideration of sociological influence.
  13. Anna Johnson Julian

    1903 - 1994 (91 years)
    Anna Johnson Julian was the first African-American woman awarded a PhD in sociology by the University of Pennsylvania , a civic activist, and fourth national president of Delta Sigma Theta, a historically black sorority. In the 1930s, Julian studied factors inhibiting children’s education and taught sociology at Miner Teachers College. Her doctoral work was an analysis of the case records of 100 families receiving income support. She was married to prominent chemist, Percy Lavon Julian, from 1935 to his death in 1975, and had three children. The couple and their children faced down a violent ...
  14. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

    1944 - Present (78 years)
    Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot is an American sociologist who examines the culture of schools, the patterns and structures of classroom life, socialization within families and communities, and the relationships between culture and learning styles. She is the Emily Hargroves Fisher professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a 1984 MacArthur Genius.
  15. C. Eric Lincoln

    1924 - 2000 (76 years)
    Charles Eric Lincoln was an American scholar. He was the author of several books, including sociological works such as The Black Church Since Frazier and Race, Religion and the Continuing American Dilemma , as well as fiction and poetry.
  16. Cora Bagley Marrett

    1942 - Present (80 years)
    Cora Bagley Marrett is an American sociologist. From May 2011 until August 2014, Marrett served as the Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation. Biography Early life Cora Bagley Marrett was born in 1942 in Kenbridge, Virginia. Her parents only had a sixth grade education and Marrett was the youngest of 12 children.
  17. Elmer P. Martin Jr.

    1946 - 2001 (55 years)
    Elmer P. Martin Jr. was an African-American sociologist and museum executive. He was the Professor of Social Work at Morgan State University. Prior to becoming the chairman Martin taught sociology at the university for more than 25 years. He was also the creator of the first wax museum dedicated to black history, Great Blacks In Wax in the inner city of Baltimore. Martin and his wife Joanne opened the museum on July 9, 1983, with only four wax figures: Frederick Douglass, Mary McLeod Bethune, Harriet Tubman, and Nat Turner. They had the heads of the figures made for them, and used old departm...
  18. Aldon Morris

    1949 - Present (73 years)
    Aldon Douglas Morris is a professor of sociology and an award-winning scholar, with interests including social movements, civil rights, and social inequality. He is the 2021 president of the American Sociological Association.
  19. Tricia Rose

    1962 - Present (60 years)
    Tricia Rose is an American sociologist and author who pioneered scholarship on hip hop. Her studies mainly probe the intersectionality of pop music and gender. Now at Brown University, she is a professor of Africana Studies and is the director of the Center for Study of Race and Ethnicity in America. Rose also co-hosts a podcast, The Tight Rope, with Cornel West.
  20. Shelby Steele

    1946 - Present (76 years)
    Shelby Steele is an author, columnist, documentary film maker, and a Robert J. and Marion E. Oster Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He specializes in the study of race relations, multiculturalism, and affirmative action.
  21. France Winddance Twine

    1960 - Present (62 years)
    France Winddance Twine is a Black and Native American sociologist, ethnographer, visual artist. and documentary filmmaker. Twine’s research has made significant contributions to interdisciplinary research in gender and sexuality studies, racism/anti-racism, feminist studies, science and technology studies, British cultural studies, and qualitative research methods. She has conducted field research in Brazil, the UK, and the United States on race, racism, and anti-racism and has published 11 books and more than 80 articles, review essays, and books on these topics. In 2020 she was awarded the D...
  22. Bonita H. Valien

    1912 - 2011 (99 years)
    Bonita H. Valien was an African-American sociologist. She was an associate professor of Sociology at Fisk University, a historically black university in Nashville, Tennessee, and the author of several books about desegregation in the Southern United States.
  23. Preston Valien

    1914 - 1995 (81 years)
    Preston Valien was an African-American sociologist. He was a Sociology professor at Fisk University and Brooklyn College, and he worked for the U.S. federal government, including as a cultural attaché in Nigeria. He was the author of several books about school desegregation in the Southern United States
  24. Doris Y. Wilkinson

    1936 - Present (86 years)
    Doris Yvonne Wilkinson is an American sociologist from Lexington, Kentucky, who was an instigator of racial integration at the University of Kentucky as the first African American to graduate from the University of Kentucky in 1958 as an undergraduate student. At the University of Kentucky, she was the director for the African American Heritage in the Department of Sociology. And in 1969 Wilkinson was the first African-American woman to become a full-time faculty member at University of Kentucky when she joined the Department of Sociology.
  25. Chancellor Williams

    1893 - 1992 (99 years)
    Chancellor Williams was an American sociologist, historian and writer. He is noted for his work on African civilizations prior to encounters with Europeans; his major work is The Destruction of Black Civilization . Williams remains a key figure in the Afrocentrist discourse. He asserted the validity of the discredited Black Egyptian hypothesis and that Ancient Egypt was predominantly a black civilization.
  26. William Julius Wilson

    1935 - Present (87 years)
    William Julius Wilson is an American sociologist. He is a professor at Harvard University and author of works on urban sociology, race and class issues. Laureate of the National Medal of Science, he served as the 80th President of the American Sociological Association, was a member of numerous national boards and commissions. He identified the importance of neighborhood effects and demonstrated how limited employment opportunities and weakened institutional resources exacerbated poverty within American inner-city neighborhoods.

This list is far from exhaustive; if you have a suggestion for someone to add, please contact us.

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Key Associations for Black Sociologists

For more the most famous Black scholars of the last 30 years, visit our Influential Black Scholars page. If you want more on Sogiology, visit our Sogiology page to find more influential Sociologists, top colleges and universities for Sogiology, and more.

Other Influential Black Scholars by Academic Discipline

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