A major project that I developed and directed at the William Monroe Trotter Institute at UMass/Boston was the Assessment of the Status of African Americans, which involved 61 scholars. This was a counter to a study by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences. In 1984, with $2 million in funding from foundations, the NRC began a study to report on the status of blacks since 1940 and the future status of blacks in the United States.
Critics of the NRC study were concerned about the ramifications of a major study of African Americans in the ideological climate of the 1980s. There had been a dismantling of the Great Society programs and a cease-fire in the War on Poverty. Some critics expressed concern that a major study by a prestigious academic organization like the NRC might serve to validate the 1980s trends toward limiting the role of government in addressing the ills of society, especially those concerning race. Furthermore, these critics contended that NRC study groups, while including some persons with a commitment to principles of equality and fairness, included a significant number of scholars who ruled out both the historical oppression of African Americans and contemporary racial discrimination as major influences in the existing conditions of African American communities.
As a result of these concerns and considerations, in the spring of 1987, I organized the project, Assessment of the Status of African Americans. Sixty-one scholars from across the country were arranged into study groups, one for each of six topics: education; employment, income, and occupations; political participation and the administration of justice; social and cultural change; health and medical care; and the family. Four books were produced from this project:
- W. Reed with W. Darity, Sr., and N. L. Roberson. 1993. Health and Medical Care of African-Americans. Westport, CT: Auburn House Publishing Co.
- W. Reed. (Ed.). 2003. African-Americans: Essential Perspectives. Westport,CT: Auburn House Publishing Co.
- R. Hill, et al. 2003 The African American Family: A Holistic Perspective. Westport, CT: Auburn House Publishing Co.
- C. Willie, A. Garibaldi, and W. Reed. (Eds.). 1991 The Education of African-Americans. Westport, CT: Auburn House Publishing Co.