The Russell Sage Foundation recently cosponsored, along with the Social Science Research Council, Carnegie Corporation of New York, various departments and programs at Columbia University, the Institute for New Economic Thinking, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a conference, An American Dilemma for the 21st Century. The occasion for the gathering, held at the Schomburg Center on October 30, 2019, was the 75th anniversary of the publication by Swedish Nobel laureate and economist Gunnar Myrdal of the influential work, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy. The book explores the paradox of the American ideals of American democracy and freedom that stand alongside the enduring legacy of racial discrimination and social injustice in the United States. The conference sought to examine the impact of Myrdal’s study and to explore the contemporary American dilemma within the context of ongoing social science research.
Among the conference presenters were several scholars who are RSF authors, grantees, and visiting scholars, including Obie Clayton, Jr. (Clark Atlanta University), Williams M. Rodgers, III (Rutgers University), Ingrid Gould Ellen (New York University), Amanda Geller (New York University), and Phillip Atiba Goff (John Jay College of Criminal Justice).
The Social Science Research Council, under the leadership of President Alondra Nelson, launched a new online platform at the conference, An American Dilemma. The website makes widely accessible the Carnegie-Myrdal Study of the Negro in America research memoranda archive housed at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and features the output of a stellar team of social scientists who worked with Myrdal to study “the Negro problem” on behalf of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. This digital platform greatly expands the access that scholars and the general public have to these materials. In doing so, it increases the visibility of the “hidden figures,” those scholars who worked alongside Myrdal, but whose roles are lesser-known. The American Dilemma website also includes links to the live stream recordings of the conference proceedings.
Russell Sage Foundation is honored to be a part of these important explorations of African-American history and life.