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Bobby Wilson to Receive AAG Presidential Achievement Award

November 12, 2012

The AAG is pleased to announce that the 2012 AAG Presidential Achievement Award will be presented to Bobby Wilson, Professor and Interim Chair, Department of Geography, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Wilson is being honored for his career-long dedication to anti-racist scholarship in geography, as well as for his a mentorship to many students and for the example he has set for colleagues throughout his academic career.

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. It was at Clark that Wilson coauthored his first journal article, “Symposium: Black perspectives on Geography,” (Antipode 1972) chronicling the efforts of Donald Deskins Jr. in bringing together a very small number of African-American geographers whose understanding of the discipline and its priorities represented among the first public statements of anti-racist geography.

Wilson’s work is firmly situated within the Civil Rights Movement. Two major volumes, America’s Johannesburg: Industrialization and Racial Transformation in Birmingham (2000) and Race and Place in Birmingham: The Civil Rights and Neighborhood Movements (2000) illustrate his profound contribution to understanding the geography of Birmingham, Alabama. 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.

Wilson’s contributions to anti-racist practice in advancing the discipline of Geography have also been unflagging. As an educator, he has constantly striven both to develop anti-racist practices in the classroom in general, and to contribute to the educational context, including historically black institutions, in which minority students can thrive. In the mid-1980s, he was a member of the AAG’s commission on Afro-American Geography, the first such group to address questions of racism and access within the institutional framework of the discipline. He has played a similar strong role within the Southeastern Division of the AAG. He has also had a constant presence at the local level where his commitment to anti-racist scholarship plays out in contributions to his own community by working as a board member for many local agencies devoted to community wellbeing, and in a large number of community-based research projects.

After completing his PhD at Clark University, Wilson was appointed to the Department of Geography at the University of Alabama, Birmingham from 1974 to 2002. He moved to Tuscaloosa in 2002.

The 2012 Presidential Achievement Award will be presented to Wilson by AAG Past President Audrey Kobayashi at the 2013 AAG Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, just prior to the Past President’s Address. For details on the upcoming AAG Annual Meeting, to be held April 9-13, 2013, see www.aag.org/annualmeeting.

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