Monica M. White : Awards | Carnegie Corporation of New York

Monica M. White is the Distinguished Chair of Integrated Environmental Studies (2021–25) and associate professor of environmental justice at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Dr. Monica M. White is the Distinguished Chair of Integrated Environmental Studies (2021-25), associate professor of Environmental Justice at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and past president of the Board of Directors for the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. She is the first Black woman to earn tenure in both the College of Agricultural Life Sciences (established 1889) and the Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies (established 1970), to which she is jointly appointed. As the founding director of the Office of Environmental Justice and Engagement (OEJ) at UW-Madison, Dr. White works toward bridging the gap between the university and the broader community by connecting faculty and students to community-based organizations that are working in areas of environmental/food/land justice toward their mutual benefit. She is also an Andrew Carnegie Fellow for 2022-2024 and holds a joint appointment in the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology and the Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies.

Dr. White’s research investigates Black grassroots organizations that are engaged in the development of sustainable, community-based food systems as a strategy to respond to issues of hunger and food inaccessibility in both contemporary times and the twentieth century. In addition to her scholarship, and in collaboration with the National Black Food and Justice Alliance (NBFJA), Dr. White serves as the Director of the HBCU Project, to facilitate the development of centers for agroecology at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

The Carnegie Fellowship she holds represents the recognition that this research puts Dr. White in an exceptional group of established and emerging humanities scholars that are strengthening U.S. democracy, driving technological and cultural creativity, exploring global connections and global ruptures, and improving natural and human environments.

Dr. White’s first book, Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement (University of North Carolina Press, 2019) received the First Book Award from the Association of Association for the Study of Food in Society, the Eduardo Bonilla-Silva Outstanding Book Award from the Division of Race and Ethnic Minorities Section of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and an Honored Book Award from the Gendered Perspectives section of the Association of American Geographers.

Freedom Farmers revises the historical narrative of African American resistance and breaks new ground by recovering the work, roles, and contributions of southern Black farmers and the organizations they formed in this history. It traces the origins of Black farmers’ organizations to the late 1800s, emphasizing their activities during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Whereas much of the existing scholarship views agriculture as a site of oppression and exploitation of Black people, Freedom Farmers reveals agriculture also as a site of resistance by concentrating on the work of Black farm operators and laborers who fought for the right to participate in the food system as producers and to earn a living wage in the face of racially, socially, and politically repressive conditions. Moreover, it provides an historical foundation that has added meaning and context for current conversations regarding the resurgence of agriculture in the context of food justice/sovereignty movements in urban spaces including Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City, and New Orleans.

Dr. White’s work in the classroom and as a member of the food justice movement for over a decade embodies the theoretical framework of Collective Agency and Community Resilience and the use of community-based food systems and agriculture as a strategy of community health, wellness, and development. In addition to her service on the Board of Directors of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, she has served on the advisory board of the Southeast African American Farmers Organic Network and currently serves on the advisory board of New Communities, Inc., under community organizer and civil rights activist Ms. Shirley Sherrod.

In addition to the Carnegie Fellowship, Dr. White has received a multi-year, multi-million dollar USDA research grant to study food insecurity in Michigan. She has also received several teaching and service awards, including the Honored Instructor, UW-Madison Division of Housing, and the Michigan Sociological Association Marvin Olsen Award for Distinguished Service to the Cause of Sociology in Michigan the Outstanding Woman of Color, University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Vilas Early Career Investigator Award from the Office of the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, $100,000 in support of her next book project.