ODAAE project team
Advisory board members
- John Baugh
- Adam Bradley
- William Labov
- Sonja Lanehart
- John McWhorter
- Claudia Mitchell-Kernan
- Marcyliena Morgan
- John Rickford
- Geneva Smitherman
- Tracey Weldon
- Walt Wolfram
Advisory board member profiles
John Baugh is a professor of Psychology, Anthropology, Education, English, Linguistics, and African and African-American Studies; Margaret Bush Wilson Professor in Arts & Sciences at the Washington University in St. Louis. Professor Baugh is a renowned linguistics expert who has published extensively in that field, as well as in legal affairs, sociology and urban studies. Professor Baugh’s primary research interest has been the social stratification of linguistic behavior in multicultural and multilingual nations. Initial interest in this area began with quantitative and experimental studies of linguistic variation among African Americans. Most of Professor Baugh’s research is interdisciplinary, drawing extensively upon related work in the fields of anthropology, ethnography, linguistics, and sociology. These experimental investigations are tailored to have practical applications whenever possible. In addition to his linguistic research, Professor Baugh directs the African and African American Studies program, which strives to advance distinguished scholarship of and by people of African descent regardless of academic discipline
Adam Bradley is a professor of English and African American Studies and the founding director of the Laboratory for Race & Popular Culture (RAP Lab) at UCLA. He is a writer-at-large for the New York Times’ T Magazine where he contributes essays on arts, language, and culture. Bradley is the author or editor of numerous books, including Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop; The Anthology of Rap; and the New York Times bestseller One Day It’ll All Make Sense, a memoir he wrote for the rapper and actor Common. Bradley pioneered the study of rap lyrics as poetry and has worked with some of the leading artists in popular music. He has also written extensively on the literature and legacy of the novelist Ralph Ellison.
William Labov, Emeritus Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Member of the National Academy of Sciences, conducted the original socially-grounded study of language variation and change in African American English. His 1972 book, Language in the Inner City, reported on the first in a series of research projects designed to illuminate and legitimate African American English, and its chapter on “The logic of nonstandard English” has become the most widely cited defense of African American English. The Reading Road, the program he designed for tutoring Black children in the early grades, takes the child’s point of view in the acquisition of literacy and provides practical linguistic training for tutors. In 2021 he was awarded the Talcott Parsons Prize by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for his contributions to language and social justice.
Sonja Lanehart is Professor of Linguistics; Teaching, Learning & Sociocultural Studies; and Africana Studies at the University of Arizona. Her scholarship focuses on language, literacy, and education in African American communities; language and identity; sociolinguistics; and Black education from Black Feminisms, Critical Race Theory, and Intersectionality perspectives. She is particularly interested in African American Women’s Language and pushing the boundaries of research in sociolinguistics and language variation to be anti-racist, inclusive, diverse, and equitable in the fight for social and linguistic justice. Her publications include Sista, Speak! Black Women Kinfolk Talk about Language and Literacy (2002), African American Women’s Language: Discourse, Education, and Identity (ed., 2009), and The Oxford Handbook of African American Language (ed., 2015).
John McWhorter teaches linguistics, American Studies and music history at Columbia University. He is the author of over twenty books, some on language, some on race, including The Creole Debate; Talking Back, Talking Black; Woke Racism; Words on the Move; The Power of Babel; and Losing the Race. He writes for the New York Times, hosts the linguistics podcast Lexicon Valley, and has created several audiovisual courses on linguistics for the Great Courses company.
As Vice Chancellor for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Division of UCLA, Claudia Mitchell-Kernan served as the campus wide advocate for the advancement of graduate education for 21 years. A hallmark of her tenure was her successful advocacy to improve graduate student support and to ensure that standards of excellence, fairness and equity were maintained across all graduate programs. Her portfolio included the Institute of American Cultures and UCLA’s four ethnic study centers and she formerly service as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. In 2011 Dr. Mitchell-Kernan was elected Vice President for Programs for the Faculty Women’s Association for a two year term and as President of the UCLA Faculty Center Association from 2014-2016. She is currently on the Advisory Board of the Fielding Institute and the UCLA Emeriti Association Board. With Distinguished Professor Walter Allen, she recently established the Center for Capacity Building to support interventions in higher education aimed at improving access, achievement, and degree completion.
Dr. Mitchell-Kernan’s scholarly work has included a major focus on linguistic anthropology and her classic research in the late 1960s and early 1970s on African American vernacular is widely cited to this day. Her most recent book, The Decline in Marriage Among African Americans, co-edited with M. Belinda Tucker, was published by Russell Sage. Other edited books include Children’s Discourse, Television and the Socialization of Ethnic Minority Children, and her landmark Language Behavior in a Black Urban Community. She has also conducted research in Samoa, Belize, Jamaica, and the United States. Recently, she has been involved in higher education intervention projects in Ethiopia and Rwanda. Concurrent with her administrative responsibilities, she was a professor in the Departments of Anthropology and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley; her B.A. and M.A. degrees were awarded by Indiana University. Before coming to UCLA, she was Assistant Professor at Harvard University in the Departments of Anthropology and Social Relations.
Dr. Mitchell-Kernan’s national and federal agency service includes the Board of Higher Education and Workforce of the National Research Council; the Board of Directors of the Council of Graduate Schools, (Chaired its Advisory Committee on Minorities in Graduate Education.) She was Chair of the Board of Directors of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE); the Advisory Board of the National Security Education Program; and the Board of Deans of the Africa America Institute. President Clinton appointed her to the National Science Board for a six-year term in 1994. The National Science Board provides advice to the President and Congress on issues affecting Science & Technology, and governs the National Science Foundation, the U.S. premier agency for the support of basic science. In 1996, she received a Distinguished Service Award from the Caribbean Studies Association and in 1997, Indiana University awarded her its Distinguished Alumni Service Award. Upon stepping down as Vice Chancellor, she was honored by the Los Angeles City Council, The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles.
Marcyliena Morgan is the Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences, Professor in the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, and the Executive Director of the Hiphop Archive. Professor Marcyliena Morgan earned her B.A. and her M.A. at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has received an additional M.A. at the University of Essex, England (1978), and her Ph. D through the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania (1989). Her research interests include urban speech communities, the African Diaspora and sociolinguistics, discourse strategies, performance, and education.
Marcyliena Morgan has conducted field research in the USA, England and the Caribbean on African Diaspora, identity, and language. She was on the editorial board for the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, Language and Society, and the Oxford University Press Series on Language and Gender. She also served on the editorial board for the American Anthropologist for five years, was involved in the Social Policy Committee AERA, and served as the editor for North American edition Pragmatics: Journal of the International Pragmatics Association for four years. She has organized several conferences including “The Social Implications of Creole Language Situations” (1990), “Racism, Linguistics and Language in Africa America: Papers in Honor of Beryl Loftman Bailey” (1991), and a panel on “Women of Color (Re)Visioning Race: Theory, Politics, Performance” (2001). Dr. Morgan has also consulted for organizations such as the Smithsonian Institute’s Diasporan Committee National African American Museum Project and Paramount Studios.
She is the author of: “Speech Communities: Key Topics in Linguistic Anthropology, The Real Hiphop: Battling for Knowledge, Power and Respect in the LA Underground.
Language, Discourse and Power in African American Culture, and was the editor of Language and the Social Construction of Identity in Creole Situations. Dr. Morgan has served as reviewer of such journals as Language in Society, Journal of Pidgin and Creole Linguistics, International Journal of the Sociology of Language, and Journal of Linguistic Anthropology.
Dr. Morgan has received grants from the Ford Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, WEB DuBois Institute, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UCLA Senate, UCLA’s Institute of American Cultures Research Program, and the Dean’s Award from Harvard University.
John R. Rickford is the J.E. Wallace Sterling Professor Emeritus of Linguistics and the Humanities at Stanford University. He is also Bass University Fellow in Undergraduate Education. He has been at Stanford since 1980. He received his BA with highest honors in Sociolinguistics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1971 and his Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1979. He won a Dean’s Award for distinguished teaching in 1984 and a Bing Fellowship for excellence in teaching in 1992. He was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017 and to membership in the National Academy of Sciences in 2021.
The primary focus of his research and teaching is sociolinguistics, the relation between linguistic variation and change and social structure. He is especially interested in the relation between language and ethnicity, social class and style, language variation and change, pidgin and creole languages, African American Vernacular English, and the application of linguistics to educational inequities and problems of criminal injustice. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles, and author or editor of several books. His 2000 book, Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English, co-authored with his son Russell, won an American Book Award. His latest books are Variation, Versatility and Change in Sociolinguistics and Creole Studies (2019) and Speaking My Soul: Race, Life and Language (2022).
Dr. Geneva Smitherman, aka “Dr. G” (B.A., M.A., English and Latin, Wayne State University; Ph.D. English, University of Michigan), is University Distinguished Professor Emerita at Michigan State University and a pioneering scholar-activist in Sociolinguistics and African American Studies. Her research and publications focus on African American language, literacy, and linguistic justice for dispossessed communities in the U.S. and South Africa.
Dr. G was at the forefront of the Conference on College Composition and Communication’s 1970s movement for “Students’ Right To Their Own Language.” She was a member of the first faculty in Harvard University’s Department of “Afro-American Studies” (as it was known in 1969) and created one of the first academic courses on “The Black Idiom” (as she named what in the 1960s was often referred to as “Negro Dialect”). She served as chief expert witness and advocate for the children in Martin Luther King Junior Schoolchildren v. Ann Arbor School District Board (popularly known as “The Black English Case”) and assembled a national team of linguists and educators to conduct language assessments of the children and testify at the trial, resulting in Judge Joiner’s 1979 ruling that it is not Black English which constitutes the language barrier preventing the children from learning to read, but negative teacher attitudes toward Black English.
For over two decades, Dr. G has given lectures and conducted workshops for institutions in South Africa, among them, the Project for Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA), formerly based at the University of Cape Town, the University of Limpopo, and the University of the Witwatersrand. With late South African linguist, Dr. Neville Alexander, she established the Azania Foundation for Language Education, whose international launch was postponed due to Dr. Alexander’s untimely demise. Smitherman’s major work in South Africa was the creation of a thirteen-year partnership between Michigan State University and the University of Bophuthatswana, a former South African “homeland” university, now reconstituted as Northwest University-Mafikeng (NWUM). The partnership included funding support from the Spencer Foundation for establishing a Research Institute for NWUM English faculty on the MSU campus.
Smitherman’s publications include over 130 essays, among them, “English Teacher, Why You Be Doing The Thangs You Don’t Do?” (English Journal, January,1972) and most recently, the op-ed, “Of Course Kamala Harris Is Articulate,” New York Times (September 8, 2020). She is author of eight books, including Black Talk: Words and Phrases From The Hood to the Amen Corner (1994; revised, 2000), and two classic books, Talkin and Testifyin: The Language of Black America (1977) and Word From the Mother: Language and African Americans (2006). Her most recent book is My Soul Look Back in Wonder: Memories From A Life Of Study, Struggle And Doin Battle In The Language Wars (2022). She is co-author of two books, including Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language and Race in the U.S., with Dr. H. Samy Alim (2012), and editor or co-editor of eight books, including Black Linguistics: Language, Society, and Politics in Africa and the Americas (2003).
Dr. Tracey L. Weldon is a Professor in the English Department and the Linguistics Program at the University of South Carolina. She currently serves as Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Graduate Education. Weldon completed her B.A. in French and English at Furman University and her PhD in Linguistics at The Ohio State University. As a quantitative sociolinguist, she specializes in American dialects, with a particular focus on Gullah and African American English. She has taught both graduate and undergraduate courses in Linguistics, including African American English, Language and Gender, Survey of Linguistics, and Varieties of American English. Weldon is an Associate Producer of the NSF funded documentary “Talking Black in America,” which was released in 2017 by the Language & Life Project at North Carolina State University. She is also the author of Middle Class African American English, published by Cambridge University Press in 2021.
Walt Wolfram is William C. Friday Distinguished University Professor at North Carolina State University, where he also directs the Language and Life Project. He has pioneered research on social and ethnic dialects of American English since the 1960s, including early research on African American speech in the urban North and later work on its regional distribution in the rural South. He has authored or co-authored 23 books and more than 300 articles, including four books and more than 100 articles on African American Language. He has served as a linguistic consultant to Children’s Television Workshop, the producers of Sesame Street, and is the executive producer of 14 television documentaries on language differences in American society, including several Emmy-winning documentaries that now include the five-part series, Talking Black in America. He has also served as President of the Linguistic Society of America and the American Dialect Society, and received numerous awards, including the North Carolina Award (the highest award given to a citizen of North Carolina), the Caldwell Humanities Laureate from the NC Humanities Council, the Board of Governors’ Award for Excellence in Public Service, and the Linguistics, Language and the Public Award from the Linguistic Society of America. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.