Trailblazer Amongst Us: A Profile of Audrey Smedley

by Sandi Waibel
Member, Race Relations and African American History Club

Resident Audrey Smedley, born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, has done much to educate thousands of people about the true origin and history of “race.”

She received her BA and MA degrees in history and anthropology from the University of Michigan. She earned her Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from the University of Manchester in England, based on field research in northern Nigeria. Anthropology is a science that deals with the origins, cultural, and physical development of humankind. Few women and even fewer women of color chose to study in this scientific field; our neighbor was a trailblazer.

Dr. Smedley taught undergraduate and graduate courses at several universities, including the University of Michigan, Wayne State U, Oakland U, Binghamton U (SUNY), and Virginia Commonwealth University, from which she retired in 2002 as Professor Emeritus of Anthropological and African American Studies.

While teaching the history of “race,” she found very few books on the subject, so she published her text in 1994; Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview. It won an outstanding book award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights. It is now in its fourth edition which includes a chapter by her son, Dr. Brian D. Smedley, also a trailblazer. His chapter focuses on the inequality of health care for people of color.

Dr. Audrey Smedley also authored the American Anthropology Association’s position paper on race and, in 1994, Encyclopedia Britannica’s articles on race and racism. She has published nearly 80 articles and book chapters, many on race. In 2008 she was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. I encourage you to get to know our neighbor, Dr. Smedley; she is both a valiant pioneer and a delightful lady.




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