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Lorenzo Morris

Political science professor Lorenzo Morris, chair of the Political Science Department at Howard University, and author and consultant on international and American public policy and electoral behavior, was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, on October 27, 1946. Morris’s parents, Annie Leola Crouch Morris and Henry Grady Morris, Jr. moved to Poughkeepsie from Columbus, Georgia, before Morris was born. Morris received his early education in Poughkeepsie public schools before continuing his studies at Fisk University, Oberlin College, and Yale University; he received his Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in political science from the University of Chicago.

In addition to his position at Howard University, Morris’s academic career included teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a research fellowship at the Brookings Institution, and an appointment as a Senior Fellow in the Institute for the Study of Educational Policy. Outside of academia, Morris often provided commentary on public affairs for television and radio; he was the author of five scholarly books on race and presidential politics, higher education policy, and party politics as well as numerous articles on political matters including African American politics, and questions of race in American public policy. Internationally, Morris consulted on educational projects in Haiti, Botswana and Indonesia and on matters of electoral participation in Benin and Senegal. As part of the U.S. delegation to Haiti in 1990, Morris advised and observed during the election.

Morris’s additional leadership roles included acting as co-director of the Census Information Center at Howard University, president of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists, vice-chair of the University Senate, and president of Phi Beta Kappa at Howard University.

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Maker Category

Morse Young Child Magnet School

Poughkeepsi High School

Fisk University

University of Chicago

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Favorite Season

Spring, Summer


New York

Favorite Vacation Destination


Favorite Quote


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Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
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Favorite Food


Short Description

Political science professor Lorenzo Morris (1946 - ) is chair of the political science department at Howard University.


Bookings Institution

Howard University

U.S. Department of State

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Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lorenzo Morris' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lorenzo Morris lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lorenzo Morris describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lorenzo Morris describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lorenzo Morris describes how his parents met and moved to Poughkeepsie, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lorenzo Morris describes his parents' personalities and lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lorenzo Morris describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lorenzo Morris describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Lorenzo Morris describes his childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Lorenzo Morris describes his early interest in political science

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Lorenzo Morris describes his education in Poughkeepsie, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lorenzo Morris recalls racial discrimination at Poughkeepsie High School

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lorenzo Morris shares experiences with racial discrimination in debate clubs

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lorenzo Morris describes attending Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lorenzo Morris recalls the March on Washington

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lorenzo Morris describes the Civil Rights Movement in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lorenzo Morris describes civil rights activities at Fisk University

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lorenzo Morris remembers Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King's death

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Lorenzo Morris describes his studies and activities at Fisk University

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Lorenzo Morris recalls his decision to attend the University of Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lorenzo Morris remembers influential people at the University of Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lorenzo Morris talks about the Watergate Scandal

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lorenzo Morris describes his political ideology

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lorenzo Morris talks about travelling to England, France and Quebec, Canada

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lorenzo Morris recalls his political work in Haiti

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lorenzo Morris recalls his experience in Sierra Leone

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Lorenzo Morris describes his work at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lorenzo Morris describes his first book, 'The Chit'lin Controversy'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lorenzo Morris talks about his publications

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lorenzo Morris reflects upon the National Black Political Convention and the Bakke Case

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lorenzo Morris reflects on the tenth anniversary of the Million Man March

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lorenzo Morris describes the National Conference of Black Political Scientists

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lorenzo Morris describes the political scientists he admires

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Lorenzo Morris describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Lorenzo Morris reflects upon his life

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Lorenzo Morris reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Lorenzo Morris talks about his wife, Marsha Morris

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lorenzo Morris describes his family and in-laws

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lorenzo Morris describes his volunteer work as a political analyst and advisor

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lorenzo Morris describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lorenzo Morris narrates his photographs







Lorenzo Morris recalls the March on Washington
Lorenzo Morris describes his first book, 'The Chit'lin Controversy'
My only southern encounter before that was the March on Washington, '63 [1963].$$Okay so you went to the march?$$Um-hm.$$Well that's a big deal.$$Oh, it's a big deal for me (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) I think, that's an exciting story--$$Oh yeah it was an escape, my parents [Henry Morris, Jr. and Annie Crouch Morris] did one thing they encouraged us to travel whenever we could, but never without them so it was a big deal for me to go. But fortunately the young single minister was trying to date my aunt, who was a student at Howard [University, Washington, D.C.], and was visiting us during the summer and babysitting us during the summer so that in order to increase his social relations he promised to make sure that I was well supervised. And I can remember there was no seat left on the bus and you know those busses went (gestures), and so they put a stool on so I sat on the stool (laughter) from Poughkeepsie [New York] to Washington [D.C.] but my aunt lived in Washington so I'd been here many times before and I was struck by one thing I always tell my students because it's sort of like a kind of social moment of political significance not for the world but as a symbol is that when you got to Baltimore [Maryland] and I knew how far Baltimore was from D.C. the busses almost came to a stop. And as far as the eye could see, you could see them and there were these people singing, out and blacks off on the side of the road and I can remember them singing my grandmother's songs, 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken' and I thought, this was a whole new world. All my life they told me there were only a few of us blacks 'cause I hadn't seen that many and all of a sudden there were all of these people. All who thought the same thing, even knew the songs and it was the most moving moment for me, more than the--Mart- King's [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] speech which I liked, but it was that long slow movement from Baltimore to Washington where every fa- black people waved and symbolized experiences and things that I thought I knew. And so you know it was an indelible point in my mind.$$Yeah, I can see that, yeah, so were you very--when you were at the march were you very, were you close or were you far back in the crowd or (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) I was close enough; I always look for old pictures to see if you can see this kid, believe it or not I wasn't tall, swinging feet over the reservoir near the front. And you know, I got to see King as he came by and I remember [HistoryMaker] Andrew Young 'cause I thought he was young and he looked young. I remember Mahalia Jackson song ['How I Got Over'] which I thought was wonderful. As a snotty little debate student I analyzed King's speech so I really didn't pay attention to it as a moving--it just looked at the structure (laughter).$$What was the most, other than the numbers of people there, what was the most important thing about that day that you remember?$$I think it was the nervousness, not by me, everybody thinking--it's hard for--to remember that at the time people thought there would be violence. And I had all these little umble [ph.] notes, numbers to call and places to go if anything happened and of course nothing happened. But I can remember this sense of sort of success that it went off well that people came, that--oh and when I got back, my brothers and sisters--I had gone to something important. Now in Poughkeepsie [New York] anything outside of three blocks was already a big deal. I had gone to something important and come back. It was a, I mean, I've been to Madagascar, and I've been to--but never nothing equaled that trip to Washington and will ever in terms of distance, distance from an enclosed little environment.$Well, tell us about what, what was your first book and--?$$First book was done largely as a collection of work--research from graduate school [University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois] with a friend of mine [HistoryMaker] Charles Henry who's down at Berkeley [University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California]. And it's called, 'The Chit'lin Controversy[: Race and Public Policy in America]', and as I've often noted to those who laugh about the title, it's the only book that I've had that's gone into several reprints. It was cert- I certainly would not have picked the title now, but I picked it then because it was a little bit shocking and disturbing and because I thought it reflected the shockingness, shocking character reflected part of the issue. It relates to a story by Bontemps--Arna Bontemps and Langston Hughes in a book called, 'Negro Folklore' ['The Book of Negro Folklore'] and in this book the black guy goes into a Washington, D.C. restaurant and I guess it's the late '50s [1950s] or early '60s [1960s] and he asked--it had just been desegregated, something people don't oft- often forget, that Washington was segregated. And, and they're very nice, it's an elegant restaurant and they show them to a table and they--and so he get--they give him the menu and he asks, "Do you have any collard greens?" And they say, "No." Then he said, "Do you have any black-eyed-peas?" And you know how the story goes, then finally he says, "Do you have any chit'lins?" and they say, "No." And he gets up, folds the menu, gets up and says, "You folks just aren't ready for desegregation." And why the story, because it's about the insignificance of what we've called physiological desegregation, of moving people and places that ignores the cultural components of choices and values. And so it focuses heavily, though not exclusively, on education and argues that letting blacks in the white schools if it doesn't change the structure of school administration or selection in choices is insignificant. And so we use this story like that, but we use the story because at the same time it's embarrassing quality, to some extent, 'The Chit'lin Controversy,' helps to bring attention to the fact that African Americans often did not want to recognize that cultural differences were significant, that if everybody had an equal chance of going to schools the testing issues would resolve themselves and people would come out on top which of course hasn't happened because there are cultural sig- significance factors in, in, in evaluation in system and merit. Which we need, I think, to recognize, but also largely we picked the title because we just referred to it, the chit'lin book and by the time it had gotten to the publisher we had no name for it (laughter)--$$(Laughter).$$--was what we called it because that was the opening story and so we left it.$$Okay, all right.$$But I think the value of the observations are significant today that differential systems of merit and reward and of judgment are, are not just equal among individuals because groups have effects on those things and those are things we call cultural.$$Okay, now that, that one was published in--$$Si- almost when I was still a student, it was '76 [1976].$$Okay.$$I wasn't still a student but it had been written when--it was written when I was a student.