Press Release

AAC&U Announces Winner of the 2020 Frederic W. Ness Book Award

Washington, DC—The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) today announced the winner of its Frederic W. Ness Book Award, Jim Crow Campus: Higher Education and the Struggle for a New Southern Social Order (Teachers College Press). The annual award recognizes outstanding contributions to the understanding and improvement of liberal education. The 2020 Ness Award will be formally presented to the author, Joy Ann Williamson-Lott, at AAC&U’s Annual Meeting on January 23, 2020, in Washington, DC. Joy Ann Williamson-Lott is dean of the graduate school, and a professor of the history of education at the University of Washington College of Education, and co-editor of the History of Education Quarterly.

“Williamson-Lott’s pivotal book illustrates the power of student and faculty activists in the black freedom struggle and anti–Vietnam War movement to advance social justice by disrupting entrenched racialist structures within the academy. Jim Crow Campus is a timely addition to a growing body of literature that informs AAC&U’s acknowledgement of student activism as a form of High-Impact Practice,” said AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella.

This well-researched volume explores how the black freedom struggle and the anti–Vietnam War movement dovetailed with faculty and student activism in the South to undermine the traditional role of higher education and bring about social change. It uses the battles between students, faculty, presidents, trustees, elected officials, and funding agencies to explain how black and white southern campuses transformed themselves into reputable academic centers. No matter the type of institution, these battles represented cracks in the edifice of the Old South and precipitated wide-ranging changes in southern higher education and society as well. This thought-provoking history offers scholars and others interested in institutional autonomy and the value of civil society a deep understanding of the central role that institutions of higher education can play in social and political change and the vital importance of independent institutions during times of national crisis.

“I am thrilled by the recognition that AAC&U is giving to Jim Crow Campus as a book that contributes to the understanding and improvement of liberal education,” said Joy Ann Williamson-Lott. “History teaches us that we must remain staunch stewards of academic freedom and freedom of speech at our colleges and universities. I am gratified to know that I join so many of my colleagues in that endeavor.”

This year’s Ness award winner was selected by a committee of higher education leaders including Kathleen Woodward (chair), Professor, Director of the Simpson Center for the Humanities, and Lockwood Professor in the Humanities, University of Washington; Mary Ann Villarreal, Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, University of Utah; David Theo Goldberg, Director of the University of California Humanities Research Institute, University of California, Irvine; Timothy K. Eatman, Dean of the Honors Living-Learning Community, Rutgers University–Newark; and Lynn Pasquerella, President, AAC&U.

For more information about Jim Crow Campus: Higher Education and the Struggle for a New Southern Social Order, visit

For information about the Frederic W. Ness Book Award, visit

About AAC&U

AAC&U is the leading national association dedicated to advancing the vitality and public standing of liberal education by making quality and equity the foundations for excellence in undergraduate education in service to democracy. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises 1,400 member institutions—including accredited public and private colleges, community colleges, research universities, and comprehensive universities of every type and size.

AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, faculty, and staff engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Through a broad range of activities, AAC&U reinforces the collective commitment to liberal education at the national, local, and global levels. Its high-quality programs, publications, research, meetings, institutes, public outreach efforts, and campus-based projects help individual institutions ensure that the quality of student learning is central to their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.

Information about AAC&U can be found at