The Davis Lecture

The W. Allison Davis ’24 and John A Davis ’33 Lecture

The W. Allison Davis 1924 and John A. Davis 1933 Lecture commemorates the remarkable work of the two distinguished scholars for which the Center is name. Brothers who, throughout their adult lives, made important contributions to equal rights and opportunity in the United States. Allison Davis, valedictorian of the Class of 1924, was a pioneer in the social anthropological study of class and caste in the American South. John A. Davis pursued wide-ranging political science work on race in both the United States and Africa. The Davis Lecture is delivered each year by a scholar whose work concentrates on some aspect of race, class, or education in the United States.

The 2018 Annual Davis Lecture:Environmental Justice and Equity in the Face of Climate Change

Dr. Beverly Wright

Thursday, October 25 | 7:00 pm | Paresky Auditorium

The Environmental Justice movement grew out of community activism and advocacy for better standards for protecting the health of people of color and low income communities. Although there were existing laws and regulations designed to protect human health, these protections were not afforded to all communities equally. Minority communities were left to languish in the shadow of industrial facilities inundated with toxic chemical pollution.  It was their struggle for justice and equal protection under the law that; (1) changed the culture of an agency; (2)  shifted a research paradigm with the creation of a new approach and methodology that embraced community involvement (Community Based Participatory Research); (3) motivated the development of citizen science as a credible discipline;  and (4) produced science that was more protective of communities. This presentation will review this transformation and analyze its impact on vulnerable communities.


Beverly Wright

Dr. Beverly L. Wright, environmental justice scholar and advocate, author, civic leader and professor of Sociology, is the founder of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice currently at Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Center addresses
environmental and health inequities along the Mississippi River Chemical Corridor and is a community/university partnership organization providing education, training and job placement for underserved populations in environmental justice communities within the United States. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Center has focused its energies largely on research and policy efforts, community outreach and assistance as well as the education and training of displaced African-American and minority residents of New Orleans. Most recently, Dr. Wright has directed the focus of the Center’s activities on the education, training and public policy needs and concerns of those communities affected the BP Deep Water Horizon oil spill disaster

Dr. Wright’s work reaches far beyond the confines of the Center’s activities. She has served as the co-chair of Sustainable Energy and Environmental Taskforce for New Orleans Mayor Mitchell Landrieu’s transition team.

She is currently serving on the Sewerage & Water Board for the City of New Orleans and is a member of an advisory board of the Tony Mizzocchi Center of the United Steelworkers of America. She has previously served on NEJAC, the Corps of Engineers’ Environmental Advisory Board, the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Affairs’ Brownfields Consortium, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the New Orleans’ Select Committee for the Sewerage and Water Board, chaired the 2002 Second National People of Color Leadership Summit, and currently co-chairs the Environmental Justice Climate Change Initiative, is a member of the Commission Delegation to the U.N. Conference on Climate Change (COP15, 16, & 17) and serves as the president of the African American Women of Purpose and Power in New Orleans.

Dr. Wright received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 2003, the Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leadership Award in 2006, the 2008 EPA Environmental Justice Achievement Award, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition 2008 Community Award, the Ford Motor Company’s Freedom’s Sisters Award in July of 2009, the prestigious 2009 Heinz Award as well as the 2010 Beta Kappa Chi Humanitarian Assistance Award of the National Institute of Science and the 2010 Conrad Arensberg Award from the Society for the Anthropology of Work. She was also recognized by the Grios 100 History Makers in the Making in 2010. In 2011, Dr. Wright received the Urban Affairs Association’s SAGE Activist Scholar Award. In May of 2012, she also received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University at Buffalo, State University of New York Sociology Department where she presented the departmental commencement address.

Dr. Wright is the accomplished author of numerous scholarly books and articles. Recently, she authored two books with Dr. Robert Bullard; Race, Place, & the Environment After Hurricane Katrina from Westview Press, and most recently, The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How The Government Response Endangers African-American Communities from New York University Press. Dr. Wright continues to serve as a strong voice in the grassroots environmental justice movement.


Previous Davis Lecturers:

  • Sonia Sanchez

  • Donna Murch

  • Ted Shaw

  • Khalil Gibran Muhammad

  • Danielle Allen

  • Robin D.G. Kelley

  • Angela Riley

  • Richard Thompson Ford

  • Charles H. Long

  • Pedro Noguera

  • Dorothy Roberts

  • Patricia Williams

  • Johnetta Cole

  • Frank Wu

  • Richard Rodriguez

  • Manning Marable

  • Michael Dorris

  • Ishmael Reed

  • Charles Joyner

  • David Levering Lewis

  • Lloyd Richards

  • Margaret Wilkinson

  • Toni Cade Bambara

  • Joseph E. Harris

  • Cornel West