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U of M Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Selected for Fulbright Scholar Award

For release: April 19, 2011
For press information, contact Gabrielle Maxey, 901/678-2843

Dr. Bill E. Lawson
Dr. Bill E. Lawson
Dr. Bill E. Lawson, distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of Memphis, has been awarded a Fulbright-University of Liverpool Scholar Award for 2011-12. Lawson will travel to the University of Liverpool to study philosopher John Locke’s views on forced labor and to the University of Nottingham to study the writings of Frederick Douglass on photography. He will also teach a course on either Frederick Douglass or African-American philosophy at the University of Liverpool during the six-month fellowship.

Lawson’s research will focus on Locke’s writings about forced labor and the social and cultural history of 16th-century Britain. His project is connected to the research done at Liverpool’s Centre for the Study of International Slavery. “I particularly like the interdisciplinary nature of the work at Liverpool,” Lawson said. “The University of Liverpool brings together researchers and scholars in the areas of art, music, literature, and social, political and intellectual history.”

Lawson is particularly interested in the work done by scholars in the Institute for Irish Studies on the role of the Irish as forced laborers in the Americas.

One aspect of this program, Philosophy in Schools, connects with the Philosophical Horizons program at the University of Memphis. “Our program aims to introduce the history and practice of philosophy to Memphis children, particularly those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged and attend schools that are the least likely to have the resources to implement Philosophy for Children into their curriculum,” Lawson said. “The University of Liverpool, like the University of Memphis, is an urban university. And like Memphis, Liverpool has a community outreach agenda, making the community work I do here a natural fit for the type of academic engagement exhibited at Liverpool. The academic and social interests at Liverpool make my research agenda, the facilities, and faculty at Liverpool a perfect research and teaching match.”

Lawson grew up in Philadelphia and received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His area of academic specialization is African-American philosophy with an emphasis on social and political philosophy. His published works include Between Slavery and Freedom with Howard McGary, Pragmatism and the Problem of Race, edited with Donald Koch, Faces of Environmental Racism, Second Edition, edited with Laura Westra, and articles on jazz, the urban underclass, John Locke, and Frederick Douglass.

Lawson has also taught at Spelman College, the University of Delaware and Michigan State University.

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