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The Association of American Geographers has selected Ruth Wilson Gilmore for the 2014 AAG Harold M. Rose Award for Anti-Racism Research and Practice. Wilson Gilmore is a Professor of Geography in the Earth and Environmental Sciences, and American Studies program and Director of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). She is also the winner of the prestigious 2012 Angela Davis Award for Public Scholarship of the American Studies Association (ASA). Previous to her appointment at CUNY, Wilson Gilmore was a Professor at the University of Southern California, and at UC Berkeley. Dr. Gilmore received her PhD in economic geography and social theory from Rutgers University, under the guidance of the late Neil Smith.

This award honors the work of Harold M. Rose, who was committed to research which would lead to social change for African-Americans. In his influential 1978 Presidential Address at the AAG Annual Meeting, Rose focused on what he called the growing despair that had emerged for African-Americans in segments of American urban space. Arguing that despair is in fact commonplace, Rose lamented that the extent of despair is seldom measured by geographers, and hoped that others in the profession would take up this call to continue tabulating other geographies of despair for African-Americans. Wilson Gilmore’s work follows in his vision.

Wilson Gilmore has said that her work explores both “the dire and the hopeful.” Asking crucial questions about the ways movement and labor reconfigure and reshape landscapes of both production and consumption, Wilson Gilmore’s career demonstrates a lifelong commitment towards asking how individuals employ power in ways that enhance life opportunities rather than guaranteeing premature death.

Wilson Gilmore’s book, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis and Opposition in Globalizing California (University of California Press, 2007) paid particular attention to examining the political and economic forces in California’s prisons, and Wilson Gilmore worked tirelessly as a scholar-activist to improve the conditions of prisoners and improve the criminal justice system in California. Wilson Gilmore has said that she opposes the “all-purpose use of cages to solve social, political and economic problems.”

Wilson Gilmore is a mentor and inspiration for many people of color in geography. Wilson Gilmore spoke at an AAG Annual Meeting on racism in the academy, captivating her audience. She claimed being a third-generation Yalie, explaining that both her father and grandfather had worked there as custodial staff, whereas she had earned her Bachelor’s degree at the institution. Wilson Gilmore’s tireless commitment to political activism, exploring complex racial and class formations, uneven development, and the African diaspora has changed the epistemological terrain of human geography as well as other cognate disciplines. Given her important anti-racist and anti-sexist research agenda, she is a fitting awardee for the Harold M. Rose Award.