Student Spotlight: George Weddington


Interviewed as Fifth Year Student. Dissertation title: “Becoming Black Lives Matter”

George Weddington, a fourth-year graduate student in the Department of Sociology, sits on a bench near a cherry blossom treeHow would you explain your area/s of research? 

My research seeks to understand black movements, how social movements become racialized, and how black movements generate their own conceptions of black identity.

What inspired you to choose this field of study?

I think that there’s an urgent need to understand the implications of race, the legacies of structural and institutional racism, and the political identities of people of African descent for social movement studies. On the other hand, social movement studies as a subfield in sociology is particularly useful field to grasp the daily realities and dynamics of black activism.

What is the significance of your research?

The black protest wave that began in 2014 exposed the deep roots of racism in the United States and proved the idea of a “post-racial” America to be a myth. If there is any possibility of genuine racial equality, it is necessary to tend to the ongoing history of black organizing.

What has most influenced you as a scholar?

During the fall of 2017, when I was doing my fieldwork, I decided to attend a local rally for prison reform. One of the speakers in attendance was a black woman who must have been at least 80 years old; most of the time I saw her she was seated, and needed help standing and walking around. I remember being astounded that she had decided to spend the entire weekend around activists and giving speeches around town. Even more importantly, I remember thinking that she had surely lived through the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power Era, and now the Movement for Black Lives. I’m still in awe at her dedication. Even more importantly, the realization that she’s seen the killings of Emmett Till and also Trayvon Martin speaks directly to my understanding and study of race and black activism.

Why did you choose Pitt to pursue your graduate degree?

I became interested in the PhD program in sociology as I was in the second year of my master’s degree. I found that the department’s emphasis on social movements and openness to specific questions of race and gender in social movements would be a good fit for my interests. I also really enjoy the city of Pittsburgh and find it to be a great place to be a graduate student!

What are your plans after graduation?

Ideally, I would like to be able to continue in academia – whether that is in the form of a postdoc or a tenure-track position. I would like to be in a place where I could balance my academic work with spending more time outdoors.