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For immediate use

July 26, 2001 -- No. 346

Local angle: Amherst, Mass.

Darity to seek comprehensive agenda at African-American research institute

By L.J. TOLER
UNC News Services

CHAPEL HILL -- Don't look for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Institute of African American Research to keep a low profile under new director Dr. William A. "Sandy" Darity Jr.

"My big dream is that people will view this institute as a center of scholarly activity in all the research areas that encompass African-American studies," said Darity, also UNC's Cary C. Boshamer Professor of Economics and Sociology.

Carolina Provost Dr. Robert Shelton named Darity July 1 to direct the institute, founded in 1995 to help lead scholarly investigation into all aspects of black life, as well as public and private policies and programs affecting their lives.

"Sandy Darity's record of personal scholarship is stellar and will serve as an example for research activities in the institute," Shelton said. "His high academic profile will empower his directorship and attract participation by top scholars from across the campus and nation."

Darity aims to gather ideas from faculty and graduate students in a variety of disciplines to set the center's intellectual direction. His own ideas for topics needing research include remedies for racial and economic inequality, controversies surrounding various reparations proposals and racial achievement gaps in public schools.

Another topic begging for more investigation, he said, is the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which contributed to what scholars call the African diaspora ("di-AS-pora"), the spread and influence of

Africans to most other areas of the world, where they now live far removed from their ancestral homelands.

Because much of this history and influence wasn't documented or analyzed at the time, researchers today try to fill gaps in this body of knowledge, as well as examine the current status of blacks, said Dr. Archie Ervin, UNC Assistant to the Chancellor and Director for Minority Affairs.

"It's important for this institute, which is purely an academic enterprise, to develop research questions that relate to the diaspora," Ervin said. "It is a scholarly enterprise designed to generate cutting-edge research and to present it in useable ways, in both the academy and the society at large."

The institute, now with offices in the Porthole Building, eventually will be housed in a privately funded, $9 million new building for UNC's Sonja Haynes Stone Black Cultural Center, expected to be finished in spring 2003.

Besides identifying important questions, recruiting scholars to probe them and seeking grants to fund research, the center will continue three activities, Darity said: sponsoring an annual student research conference; helping present a symposium on a jazz artist or topic during the Carolina Jazz Festival each February; and bringing African-American studies scholars from other countries to speak at Carolina. The institute may also consider annual themes on a particular topic, scholar, artist or novelist, Darity said. "This work is interdisciplinary," he said. "It spans the humanities, social sciences, fine arts and some dimensions of public health, medicine and the natural sciences."

At Carolina since 1983, Darity teaches courses including honors macroeconomics and financial markets. He also is a research professor of public policy, African and African-American studies and economics at Duke University; he directs UNC's Minority Undergraduate Research Assistant Program.

Darity has directed the economics department's undergraduate honors and graduate studies programs. He has been a visiting professor or fellow at institutions including the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, the London School of Economics and Political Science, the National Humanities Center, the University of Tulsa and the Centro de Excelencia Empresarial (Monterey, Mexico).

Other teaching posts have been at the universities of Texas (Austin) and Maryland (College Park) and Simmons College (Boston). In 1980, he was staff economist for the National Urban League's research department. In 1997, he was president of the Southern Economic Association; from 1993-96, a member of the American Economic Association's executive committee.

Darity has co-written four books, including "Macroeconomics" with James Kenneth Galbraith (1994), edited five more and penned a long list of articles, published in the American Economic Review, the Journal of Economic Perspectives and similar scholarly publications.

He was raised mostly in Amherst, Mass., where his father, William A. Darity Sr., a former UNC trustee, still lives. He earned a bachelor's degree magna cum laude with honors in economics and political science from Brown University in 1974, studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science from 1974-75 and completed a doctorate in economics in 1978 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Contacts: Dr. William A. Darity Jr., 919-962-2383; Dr. Archie Ervin, 919-962-6962; Dr. Robert Shelton, 919-962-4511.