Earl Wright II is Professor of Sociology at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. Born and raised in Memphis, he graduated from Trezevant High School in 1989 and later that year entered Kentucky State University (K-State) on a football scholarship. After a successful two year stint as the team’s starting wide receiver he was ‘compelled’ to leave Frankfort because of the low grade point average (0.7) he earned while pursing a major in “football” and minor in “partying.” It is provident that he left K-State since it is likely that he would not have graduated had he remained. Upon returning to Memphis he began to take college seriously and eventually earned the BA (1994) in History and MA (1997) in Sociology from the University of Memphis. In 2000 Earl took the doctorate in Sociology at the University of Nebraska, where he founded a chapter of the Black Graduate Student Association. Later that year he joined the Department of Sociology at the University of Central Florida and over his career has been on faculty at Fisk University, Texas Southern University (as chairperson of the Department of Sociology) the University of Cincinnati and, now, Rhodes College.
Dr. Wright has authored numerous books and articles on the contributions of Blacks and HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities) to the discipline of sociology. He is is the nation’s leading authority on W. E. B. Du Bois and the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory – the moniker bestowed on scholars engaged in sociological inquiry at Atlanta University (now called Clark Atlanta University) between 1895 and 1917. His groundbreaking research has altered our understanding of the discipline’s formative years in this nation. Specifically, some of his groundbreaking research findings include the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory’s (1895-1924) status as the first American school of sociology, not the University of Chicago (1915-1930), and that this school was the first American sociological unit to 1) institutionalize the use of insider researchers; 2) institutionalize the public acknowledgement of the limitations of one’s research; 3) institutionalize method triangulation (or mixed methods); and 4) institutionalize a “methods” section in its research papers. It is because of his excellence in “research on race and the South” that he was awarded the Charles S. Johnson Award by the Southern Sociological Society in 2016.
Dr. Wright’s greatest academic pleasure is bringing to this nation’s attention the contributions of early and unknown/little known Black sociologists and social scientists who contributed to the development of one of the greatest tools for social advancement in the world – sociology!