University of South Carolina

University to honor Andrew Billingsley

Dr. Andrew Billingsley, a pioneering sociologist and a leading scholar in African-American Studies, will be honored for his distinguished career in higher education by the University of South Carolina and the community April 8 – 9.

Andrew Billingsley
Andrew Billingsley

Billingsley joined the university’s faculty in 1996, serving as a professor of sociology with appointments in the Institute for Families in Society and African American Studies.

“African American Studies was a relatively new and emerging field when Dr. Andrew Billingsley began teaching,” said Dr. Bobby Donaldson, an associate professor of history and African-American studies at Carolina. “As a scholar of black families, Billingsley reshaped public policy and helped define African American Studies’ interdisciplinary framework. At a time of protest, he directed his activist energies toward path-breaking research that attracted the attention of politicians, journalists and lay readers.”

The two-day public event, titled “A Life of the Mind: Honoring Leadership, Scholarship & Service of Andrew Billingsley,” will feature some of the country’s top scholars in African-American studies as well as faculty from the university. Each will reflect on the contributions Billingsley has made as a teacher, researcher, college administrator, author and active community member during his 50-year career.

Billingsley’s early career will be the focus of talks Thursday from 7 – 9 p.m. at McKissick Museum. Scholars will include Dr. Lois Benjamin, Endowed University Professor at Hampton University; Dr. Kesho Scott, associate professor of American studies and sociology at Grinnell College; and Dr. Ron Walters, professor emeritus of government and politics at the University of Maryland. Also featured will be Otis Dismuke, an educator and historian from Birmingham, Ala.

Friday’s events will take place from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Brookland Baptist Church, where Billingsley is a member. All talks will focus on Billingsley’s later career. Dr. Howard Dodson, one of Billingsley’s former students and the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City, is the luncheon keynote speaker. His talk is titled, “Searching for Self, Searching for Heritage: Following Andrew Billingsley.” The lunch, held at the lunch from 12:45 – 2 p.m. is $12 per person.

A number of speakers will be featured on Friday. Scholars will include Dr. Joyce Ann Lander, civil-rights activist, writer and sociologist; Dr. Robert B. Hill, a sociologist and a retired senior researcher at Westat; Dorthy Smith-Ruiz, associate professor in Africana Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Dr. Patricia Stone-Motes, a clinical community psychology at Clemson University; and Kharimah Dessow, a Carolina graduate who was awarded a Magellan research grant as a senior in 2009 to conduct research on Billingsley’s career.

Also featured on Friday will be J.T. McLawhorn, executive director of the Columbia Urban League, and the Rev. Kenneth Hodges, S.C. state representative and pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Beaufort.

A native of Birmingham, Billingsley earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Grinnell College, master’s degrees in social service from Boston University and sociology from the University of Michigan and his doctoral degree in social service from Brandeis University. He was a faculty member and administrator at the University of California at Berkeley and vice president of academic affairs at Howard University before serving as president of Morgan State University in Baltimore from 1975 – 84.

Billingsley returned to teaching and research at the University of Maryland and served as a visiting professor at Spelman College before joining the University of South Carolina in 1996.

A prolific author, he has written numerous books, including the seminal work, “Black Families in White America,” as well as “Climbing Jacob’s Ladder: The Enduring Legacy of African American Families,” “Children of the Storm,” “Mighty Like a River: The Black Church and Social Reform,” and his recent book, “Yearning to Breathe Free: Robert Smalls of South Carolina and His Families.”

Sponsors of the two-day celebration include the University of South Carolina’s College of Arts and Sciences, African American Studies Program, Institute for Families in Society and the department of sociology and Brookland Baptist Church.

For more information call USC’s African American Studies Program at 803-777-7248 or visit the web site:

Honoring Andrew Billingsley

  • What: Series of presentations on the life and career of esteemed USC faculty member
  • Who: Top scholars in African-American studies from across the country, as well as USC, to deliver talks
  • When: April 8, 7 - 9 p.m.; April 9, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
  • Where: McKissick Museum on Thursday; Brookland Baptist Church on Friday

By Office of Media Relations

Posted: 04/05/10 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 04/07/10 @ 11:51 AM | Permalink