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RSF Bulletin

RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences
Plessy v. Ferguson and the Legacy of "Separate but Equal" After 125 Years

The notorious Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson made state-sanctioned racial segregation the law of the land in 1896. While the Civil Rights movement and subsequent Supreme Court decisions in the twentieth century did much to mitigate its effects, its consequences reverberate in ways large and small today. This special volume of RSF (copublished with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund) revisits the legacy of the decision on its 125th anniversary to consider the connection between constitutionally imposed segregation, institutionalized white supremacy, and enduring racial inequality. Edited by john a. powell (University of California, Berkeley), Samuel L. Myers (University of Minnesota), and Susan T. Gooden (Virginia Commonwealth University), the volume includes contributions from an interdisciplinary roster of legal, economic, and public policy experts, each offering contemporary insights on the doctrine of “Separate but Equal” as it relates to citizenship, colorism, and civil rights.

Among many distinguished contributions into Plessy’s enduring impact on racial disparities, john a. powell reviews the legal context of the case to show that segregation was not only about separating people by race but also about preserving White supremacy. The wide latitude for judicial interpretation granted to judges means that who decides matters, and today, just as in 1896, the justices sitting on the Supreme Court matter. Thomas J. Davis discusses how control over personal identity lay at the heart of Plessy, and how its denial of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms reverberates today. From sex and marriage to adoption, gender recognition, employment, and voting, persistent discrimination turns in various degrees on state authority to define, categorize, and deny freedom of personal identity.

Looking at the enduring educational impact of “Separate but Equal,” which has not been entirely rectified by the 1954 decision outlawing school segregation, Brown v. Board of Education, Dania V. Francis and William A. Darity, Jr., link the persistence of within-school segregation to the legacy of racialized tracking born from White resistance to desegregation. They demonstrate how a concerted effort to increase the number of Black high school students taking advanced courses could lead to long-term benefits in closing the educational achievement gap and eliminate institutionalized segregation within our schools.

Plessy rightfully stands as one of the continuing stains on American history and its ambivalence and unwillingness to address White dominance. This issue of RSF corrects and expands the narrative around the Plessy decision, and provides important lessons for addressing our continuing racial travails. It is ideal for use by scholars, teachers, community leaders, and policy makers alike.

Read the full open-access journal issue for free here.


Announcing the Visiting Scholar Class of 2021-2022

RSF is pleased to announce the selection of 17 Visiting Scholars for the 2021-2022 academic year. While in residence at RSF in New York City, they will pursue research and writing projects that reflect the foundation’s commitment to strengthening the social sciences and conducting research to “improve social and living conditions in the United States." Among the research topics of this multi-disciplinary group are immigration and immigrant integration, race and diversity, social and political movements, employers' labor practices, gender inequality and mothers’ labor force participation.

To read about each scholar’s project, please click the links below or visit the incoming scholars page on our website.

Maria Abascal (New York University)
Sareeta Amrute (University of Washington, Seattle)
Amada Armenta (University of California, Los Angeles)
James Bachmeier (Temple University)
Monica Bell (Yale University)
John Bound (University of Michigan)
Arline Geronimus (University of Michigan)
Jennifer Glass (University of Texas, Austin)
Pilar Gonalons-Pons (University of Pennsylvania)
Diana Hernández (Columbia University)
Harry Holzer (Georgetown University)
Daniel Hopkins (University of Pennsylvania)
Gwyneth McClendon (New York University)
Samuel L. Myers, Jr. (University of Minnesota)
Steven O. Roberts (Stanford University)
Kirsten Swinth (Fordham University)
Jennifer Van Hook (Pennsylvania State University)


Funding Guidelines for May 4, 2021, Deadline for Letters of Inquiry

For its next deadline, RSF will accept letters of inquiry (LOIs) under these core programs and special initiatives: Behavioral Economics; Decision Making & Human Behavior in Context; Future of Work; Social, Political and Economic Inequality. RSF will also accept LOIs relevant to any of its core programs that address at least one of the following issues:

  1. Research on the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting recession in the U.S. Specifically, research that assesses the social, political, economic, and psychological causes and consequences of the pandemic, especially its effects on marginalized individuals and groups and on trust in government and other institutions. Our priorities do not include analyses of health outcomes or health behaviors. RSF seldom supports studies focused on outcomes such as educational processes or curricular issues but does prioritize analyses of inequalities in educational attainment or student performance.
  2. Research focused on systemic racial inequality and/or the recent mass protests in the U.S. Specifically, research that investigates the prevalence of racial disparities in policing and criminal justice and their social, political, economic, and psychological causes and consequences; the effects of the current social protest movement and mass mobilization against systemic discrimination; the nature of public attitudes and public policies regarding policing, criminal justice, and social welfare; and the effects of those attitudes in the current political environment.

LOIs must include specific information about the proposed data and research design. If you are unsure about the foundation's expectations, we strongly recommend that you review the grant writing guidelines on our website and also view an instructional webinar. Successful proposals from this round can have a start date on or after December 1, 2021.


Upcoming Application Deadlines for 2021 Summer Institutes

In Summer 2021, RSF will sponsor two Summer Institutes for doctoral students and early-career scholars in Computational Social Science and Social Science Genomics. Applications for the Summer Institute in Computational Social Science are due February 22, 2021. Applications for the Summer Institute in Social-Science Genomics are due April 9, 2021.

Read more about the Summer Institutes and how to apply here.


Call for Proposals: Improving Education and Reducing Inequality in the U.S.

RSF and the William T. Grant Foundation seek research projects that aim to deepen our understanding of educational opportunity and success in the United States by analyzing data on academic achievement from the Stanford Education Data Archive (SEDA) constructed by Sean Reardon and colleagues at The Educational Opportunity Project (EOP) at Stanford University. Proposals are due by April 29, 2021.

Read the full call for proposals here.


How to Apply for Funding from RSF

For more information on RSF's grant making process, please visit our website to review our grant writing guidelines and view a five-minute video on how to use our grants management system.

RSF program staff recently hosted a webinar on how to apply for foundation grants and what must be included for a letter of inquiry to be successful. A recording is available here.


RSF Journal Calls for Proposals for Articles

RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is seeking abstracts for article submissions for two new upcoming issues. The first is for “The Socioeconomic Impacts of Covid-19,” edited by Steven Raphael (University of California, Berkeley) and Daniel Schneider (Harvard Kennedy School). This issue seeks articles examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on socioeconomic inequality in the U.S. and in particular how pre-existing inequalities may have mediated the impact of the pandemic and in turn been exacerbated by the current crisis. Proposals are due by March 10, 2021. Read the full call for articles here.

The second call for abstracts is for “Administrative Burdens and Inequality in Policy Implementation,” edited by Pamela Herd (Georgetown University), Hilary Hoynes (University of California, Berkeley), Jamila Michener (Cornell University), and Donald Moynihan (Georgetown University. This special issue seeks articles that will expand our understanding of how administrative burdens exacerbate inequality in implementing public policies. Proposals are due by April 21, 2021. Read the full call for articles here.


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