James Jones, professor of psychology and Black American Studies, accepts the American Psychological Association's highest award from APA President Melba J.T. Vasquez.

Lifelong contributions

Prof. James Jones honored for 'unparalleled career' in psychology


8:39 a.m., Sept. 1, 2011--James Jones, professor of psychology and Black American Studies at the University of Delaware, whose research, scholarship and professional service have focused on issues of racism and diversity, has received national recognition for more than 30 years of accomplishments.

The American Psychological Association (APA) presented the Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology—the association's highest honor—at its annual meeting in August. The citation honors Jones' "unparalleled career as a scientist, academic, author, administrator, thinker, innovator and social justice advocate."

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Jones began working with the APA in 1977 as director of the organization's Minority Fellowship Program, which he effectively piloted and built over the years. The program has supported the training and doctoral studies of some 1,500 students of color, who have gone on to hold such positions as APA president, dean of arts and sciences at the University of Washington and president of Spelman College. 

In accepting his award, Jones noted that the percentage of ethnic and racial minority faculty members in U.S. psychology departments had grown from about 5 percent in 1981 to about 15 percent in 2010. "These are not overwhelming numbers, but they show a significant and consistent trend toward greater access, engagement and contributions of ethnic and racial minorities to psychology," he said.

In addition to his work with the fellowship program, the APA award cited Jones' accomplishments in reorganizing and transforming a former APA office into the Public Interest Directorate, overseen by the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in Public Interest. Jones also has served as president of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues and president of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology.

In those roles, he helped launch an office on AIDS, a program on stress in the workplace and a youth violence initiative. He also led a delegation to South Africa to study and interact with local social scientists on such subjects as racial identity and reconciliation, violence against women and HIV/AIDS.

"You have 'walked the talk' and blazed a trail in support of social justice," the APA said in its citation. "As a leading scholar in the study of prejudice and racism in academe, throughout your professional life, and in your personal life as well, you have championed inclusion and diversity."

A UD professor since 1982, Jones also continued to work at APA headquarters in Washington, D.C. In 1972, he published Prejudice and Racism, in which he introduced the concept of cultural racism. The book's second edition in 1997, Jones said, "showed how much more we knew about racism but how little we knew about how to diminish it. And further, it showed that diversity in the U.S. population was presenting new challenges that an evolving psychology was increasingly challenged to address."

Among Jones' many previous awards are the Distinguished Psychologist Award from the Association of Black Psychologists, the Kurt Lewin Memorial Award from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues. This May, Jones was a recipient of UD's Louis L. Redding Diversity Award, which cited his longtime leadership in the Black American Studies Program, which recently was granted departmental status, as well as his own scholarship.

The APA, a scientific and professional organization with more than 154,000 members, is the largest association of psychologists worldwide. The first recipient of its award for lifetime contributions, presented in 1990, was the noted psychologist B.F. Skinner.

Article by Ann Manser

Photo by Lloyd Wolf

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