It all began with an idea. In 2002, Larry E. Davis, dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work, founded the Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP) with the generous support of then Provost James Maher and the University of Pittsburgh.
By 2007, the center had a full staff, with Davis as director, an associate director, an administrative assistant, and three postdoctoral fellows. Through the generous support of two Pittsburgh law firms, Reed Smith LLP and Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, the center is able to offer one of the most popular lecture series at the University, which highlights race scholars, community leaders, and award-winning writers and attracts some of the most diverse audiences seen at Pitt.
During the first five years of its operation, the center created its seven core areas of focus: criminal justice; economic disparities; educational disparities; families, youth, and the elderly; health; interracial group relations; and mental health. Since its inception, the center has been committed to the ongoing engagement of racerelated research, as race remains a problem that strikes at the very heart of America.
Since its founding in 2002, the Center on Race and Social Problems has funded 29 pilot studies and completed 19 externally funded projects. It has hosted 22 Summer Institutes that have delivered relevant and practical research into the hands of policymakers. In association with Springer, the center began publishing the journal Race and Social Problems in 2009. In 2010, the center hosted its first national conference, Race In America: Restructuring Inequality, which featured the most solutionfocused dialogue on race ever held. During 2012, the center began its community partnership with the Homewood Children’s Village, a predominantly Black neighborhood in Pittsburgh. With University of Pittsburgh resources behind it, a community that has welcomed its work, and support from the region’s top law firms and foundations, the center and its programs truly have become part of the fabric of Pittsburgh.
When the center began operating, many people questioned the need for a center devoted to racerelated issues, falsely believing that we had become a postracial society. The presidential election of 2016 and the events of August 2017 clearly show that the work of the center is needed now more than ever. Social media has helped to expose much of the racism in this country. In the words of Julian Bond, the late civil rights leader who made a speech at the center in 2010, “The truth is that Jim Crow may be dead, but racism is alive and well. That is the central fact of life for every non-White American, including the president of the United States, eclipsing income, position, and education. Race trumps them all.”