AUDREY SMEDLEY Ph.D.
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SMEDLEY Dr. AUDREY SMEDLEY, Ph.D. Dr. Audrey Smedley, a pioneering African-American anthropologist, passed away peacefully on October 14, 2020, at her home in Beltsville, MD. Dr. Smedley is predeceased by her siblings, James, Valeria, Miriam, and Ulysses Jr., and is survived by younger brother Laconia, as well as two children, David and Brian, and two grandchildren, Avery and David. Dr. Smedley is best known for her scholarship on the history of the concept of "race" - an idea that emerged in the Americas, she argued, to justify chattel enslavement of Africans and the genocide of indigenous people. Her book, Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview, was recipient in 1993 of the Outstanding Book Award from the Gustavus Myer Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America. In 2012, Race in North America was published in its fourth edition along with Dr. Smedley's son Brian as co-author. Dr. Smedley's scholarship also appeared in the Encyclopedia Britannica, as lead contributor to the publication's section on race, and informed the American Anthropological Association's statement on race. Dr. Smedley also appeared in the California Newsreel documentary film, Race: The Power of an Illusion. Dr. Smedley was born in Detroit, MI, on October 31, 1930, the eldest daughter of Ulysses and Mattie Smedley. Audrey Smedley learned the value of education and hard work from her parents; her mother, a beautician, balanced her career while raising six children, and her father worked for the Ford Motor Company for 33 years before his retirement, during which he owned and operated a gas station with his late son James. Dr. Smedley was educated in Detroit Public Schools before attending the University of Michigan on scholarship. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 1954 with a B.A. in History, Letters, and Law Program, and earned an M.A. in Anthropology from the same institution in 1957 with a concentration in history. Dr. Smedley conducted an investigation of the social and economic organization of the Birom of Northern Nigeria in 1959-61. She earned her Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from Victoria University of Manchester, England, in 1967, while raising two boys as a single mother. One of the nation's first African-American women anthropologists, Dr. Smedley battled racism and sexism to build a career in academia. She taught at Wayne State University and Oakland University before accepting a Bunting (now Radcliffe) Fellowship at Harvard University in 1971. She later taught at the State University of New York at Binghamton (now Binghamton University) and Virginia Commonwealth University. At the time of her death, Dr. Smedley was Emeritus Professor of Anthropology from both institutions. Dr. Smedley was a co-founder of the Museum of Afro-American History in Detroit (now the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History). She helped curate the museum's mobile exhibit, obtaining artifacts from as far away as the British Museum, seen by an estimated 1 million people. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) honored Dr. Smedley as a Fellow for her contributions to anthropology and the history of race and race relations. She also won the Delta Sigma Theta-Delta Award for Excellence in Afro-American History and Anthropology. Known for her generosity to social and racial justice causes, in 2010 Dr. Smedley established the U. and M. Smedley Family Merit Scholarship at VCU, awarded annually to a VCU undergraduate student interested in the study of Africa and/or the African-American experience. The family requests that any memorial gifts be made to the VCU Foundation in support of the U. and M. Smedley Family Merit Scholarship. Donors may send contributions, noting "Smedley Family Merit Scholarship" to the VCU Foundation, Box 842039, Richmond, Virginia 23284, or make a gift online at support.vcu.edu [support.vcu.edu] (keyword search "Smedley"). Private services were held at the Donald V. Borgwardt Funeral Home in Beltsville, MD.

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Published in The Washington Post on Oct. 22, 2020.
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Memories & Condolences
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7 entries
November 16, 2020
On April 16,1983, eight African American women pledged the Apalachin Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., at the State University of New York at Binghamton (now, Binghamton University). Audrey Smedley, Thelma Morris, Brenda Brown, Sylvia Carey, Jo-Ann Stamper,Karee Newsome, Carolyn Williams and Sally Malone-Hawkins. Our given line name:The Sojourners which represented our collective fortitude and resilience.

Seven of us traveled to the 1983 National Convention where we received recognition. It was during our stay in Detroit, that Audrey provided us the opportunity to visit the Museum of African American History of which she was co-founder. We were and are so proud of our soror's accomplishments. Now, we send our condolences to her sons David and Brian and the family. Rest eternally dear Soror Smedley.
Sally Malone-Hawkins, Ph.D.
Coworker
November 12, 2020
David and family. Deepest condolences on Audrey's death. May the many memories you hold dear in your hearts give you comfort during this sad and difficult time.
Judi Bryant
Acquaintance
November 12, 2020
Prof Smedley was my DST-AAC sorority sister and one of my valued African American history mentors. She was a jewel in my life that will keep shining. I am truly blessed to be in Audrey's circle of friendship and student of this academic scholar that shared and encouraged my interest and dedication about African American history. Thank you Audrey for always being a "LADY" that I will always love and respect.
Bbrown
Bbrown
Teacher
November 12, 2020
A beautiful Sorority sister inside and out. I met Soror Smedley 32 years ago while living in Binghamton, NY. She was always sweet, gentle, loving and caring Soror. Our conversations were so pleasant and encouraging. I absolutely loved and adore her. Definitely a bright light has dimmed with her passing. I didn’t realize she was in the Maryland area. Wish I knew as I would of loved to visit. My prayers are with the family during this difficult time. All my love ❤. Rest in Paradise my sweet Soror. You will be missed.
Angela Chisley
Friend
November 12, 2020
She was my neighbor, my friend, my sister! Her for people was always visible through her bright eyes and smile. I remember spending time together talking about our children. She always told the truth; if you didn't like the truth, too bad. The Howard Family will miss her guidance, voice and smile.
Frances Howard
Friend
October 23, 2020
My deepest condolences to the Smedley's family. May you live through all you have inspired and rest well.
kalfani ture
kalfani ture
Acquaintance
October 22, 2020
In loving memory of a wonderful person. We will love you and miss you always.
Lovie Warren
Family
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