Professor Elijah Anderson

William K. Lanman, Jr. Professor of Sociology, Yale University


The black ghetto has become a major icon in American society and culture, and as such, it has also become an important source of stereotype, prejudice, and discrimination. From the days of slavery through the Civil Rights period, black people have occupied a caste-like status in American society. Today, despite the progressive changes wrought by the racial incorporation process of the 1960s and 1970s, the color line persists—albeit in a new, emergent form—in everyday life. Many blacks now reside in exclusive neighborhoods formerly off-limits to them, and their children attend formerly white schools. These black people work in a wider range of occupations than ever—not simply in menial positions, but in professional positions in which black people have rarely appeared before, including as doctors, lawyers, professors, corporate executives, and major elected officials. But as black people have become increasingly more visible throughout society, dilemmas and contradictions of status have also become more common. The institutional black ghetto is persistent, and it conditions many Americans to think that the black person’s “place” is most often in the ghetto, not in middle-class society. Thus, whites and others often associate black individuals with the iconic ghetto, burdening them with a deficit of credibility that on occasion manifests in acts of acute disrespect reminiscent of America’s racial past. Among themselves black people call such incidents “nigger moments,” and generally interpret them as deeply racist attempts to put them back in their place. These moments of acute disrespect based on race and the black ghetto as a concrete point of reference constitute the present-day American color line.

Elijah Anderson is the William K. Lanman, Jr. Professor of Sociology at Yale University. Professor Anderson is one of the leading urban ethnographers in the United States. His award-winning publications include Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City (1999), Streetwise: Race, Class, and Change in an Urban Community (1990) and A Place on the Corner (1978; 2nd ed., 2003). His most recent publication, The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life, was published by WW Norton in 2012. Professor Anderson is the 2013 recipient of the prestigious Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award of the American Sociological Association. For more on Professor Anderson go to