Tyrone Forman, associate professor in the Department of Sociology, will be replacing the late Rudolph Byrd to become the new director of the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference.

Forman is renowned for his studies on social change, race and ethnic relations. In 2010, the Office of Community and Diversity recognized Forman with the “We Are Emory” 100 Community Builders Award.” Forman has also served as the co-director of Emory’s Race and Difference Initiative beginning in 2008.

Forman’s new position completes a year-long merger of Emory’s Race and Difference Initiative with the original James Weldon Johnson Institute, expanding the institute’s vision to engage the Emory community through continuing research, as well as providing fellowships, partnerships and new initiatives.

The James Weldon Johnson Institute was established at Emory in 2007 to promote scholarship and public dialogues that focused on examining the origins and the evolution of the modern-day civil rights movement and its intersection with other social justice movements. The institute was named in honor of  the African American literature scholar, educator, and pioneer James Weldon Johnson for his humanitarian, artistic, and scholastic achievements. He also served as executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

“I am thrilled that Tyrone Forman has agreed to serve as the director of the James Weldon Johnson Institute for Race and Difference,” said Earl Lewis, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, in a Nov. 11 University press release. “He is an accomplished sociologist whose work on race, social conditions and opportunity speaks to the core of the Institute’s mission. I am confident that under his leadership we will see the flourishing of new initiatives, partnerships and research. We are fortunate that he has agreed to accept this appointment at this critical stage.”

The James Weldon Johnson Institute’s mission focuses on preserving a continued relationship between scholarship and activism and its commitment to social advocacy.

Byrd served as the Goodrich C. White Professor of American Studies and was a renowned scholar of African American literature and culture. Byrd died in October 2011 after a long battle with cancer.

Under Forman’s direction, the institute will continue its signature programs, such as the CNN Dialogues, co-sponsored with Emory University, the Center for Civil and Human Rights and CNN, which provides collaborative community forums, including lectures and panel discussions addressing contemporary civic issues such as the “Arab Spring” and poverty in America, throughout Atlanta.

The institute will also continue its Visiting Scholars program, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which provides five fellowships to juniors and seniors with majors in the humanities, social sciences and law who are interested in research projects pertaining to the modern civil rights movement or its intersection with other social justice movements.

Forman said that he hopes to establish the Emory’s James Weldon Johnson Institute as a nationally recognized center for research on race and human difference, while it continues to address local and national-level social issues throughout Atlanta.

“We want to build on the great foundation of the [Institute] to establish a nationally recognized research program on race and difference in the Atlanta metro area that will illuminate pressing local and national-level social issues,” Forman said in a press release. “In turn, we will work to share that research through community outreach to local citizens, policymakers, community-based leaders, corporate executives and opinion leaders in the Atlanta metropolitan area.”

– By Malaika Nicholas