This article examines ways in which William Julius Wilson's research agenda has influenced my approach to the study of African Americans and their everyday lives. I pay particular attention to Wilson's explication of structural factors - such as economic conditions, residential patterns, and discrimination - that influence African Americans' life chances. In this context I consider the interpretive processes; i.e., meaning making through conversation, that African Americans themselves use to understand their position in America's racial, economic and class hierarchy. Throughout the article I illustrate how both my personal and professional relationship with Bill Wilson helped me to articulate my research agenda. I conclude by discussing how Wilson provided his students with opportunities to challenge his work and a forum for developing their own ideas that move beyond his own methodological and substantive concerns.
- African Americans
- Racial identity
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies
- Sociology and Political Science