Ferris State University Vice President for Diversity, Inclusion and Strategic Initiatives
Ferris State University Vice President for Diversity, Inclusion, and Strategic Initiatives David Pilgrim received the Larry T. Reynolds Award for Outstanding Teaching of Sociology on Saturday, Nov. 5, at Michigan State University, in East Lansing, during the Michigan Sociological Association’s 2022 annual conference.
In conferring this award, the MSA saluted Pilgrim’s work in building and championing the Jim Crow Museum inside the Ferris Library for Information Technology and Education (FLITE) on Ferris’ Big Rapids campus. In part, the announcement states that this award goes to “one of our nation’s greatest teachers and practitioners. For decades, this applied sociologist has skillfully delivered open-sourced teaching materials to schools, both public and private, from primary to secondary, from college to graduate school.”
“I appreciate this award,” Pilgrim said. “There are many ways to do sociological work—the Jim Crow Museum is my way. I am also grateful to Ferris State University for the opportunity to create a space where people can talk deeply about race, race relations, and racism.”
The MSA further noted Pilgrim’s recognition, “The product of this labor is not merely the enormous collection of racist objects and memorabilia emanating from the mighty lanes of commerce running through American culture, but rather the deep and often painful conversations that lead to understanding and tolerance.”
Pilgrim is the founder and director of the Jim Crow Museum, comprised of more than 20,000 pieces of collected and donated race-based artifacts located at Ferris. Since its founding, the Jim Crow Museum has used these objects of intolerance to teach tolerance and promote social justice. Visitors include scholars, classes of students, corporate leaders, police officers, politicians, and others from the general public from the U.S. and beyond. To further amplify the work of Pilgrim and the staff of the Jim Crow Museum, plans and fundraising efforts continue toward establishing a future stand-alone Jim Crow Museum, Archive, and Research Center in Big Rapids. The current targeted completion date for this project is 2025.
The MSA added that the “impact of this innovative and passionate work has served to liberate and free countless others whose minds have been shaped by apathy, ignorance, hatred, and fear,” allowing students to analyze the sociological impact qualitatively and quantitatively as well as on macro and micro levels. Further, in selecting Pilgrim, it noted that the offering of public sociology “can be applied to most every curriculum, for this work is both simple and complex. This work moves people.”
Pilgrim is one of the nation’s leading experts on diversity, inclusion, and race relations. His interview credits include CNN, C-Span, National Public Radio, Time Magazine, the British Broadcasting Company, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, and Los Angeles Times.
Pilgrim is also the author of several books, including PM Press-published Understanding Jim Crow, published in 2015, and Watermelons, Nooses, and Straight Razors, published in 2017. In 2020, Pilgrim and Franklin Hughes, a multimedia specialist in Ferris’ Diversity, Inclusion and Strategic Initiatives Office, co-authored “Haste to Rise: A Remarkable Experience of Black Education during Jim Crow.”
The Jim Crow Museum highlights Pilgrim’s writings on its websites. An applied sociologist who earned his Ph.D. at The Ohio State University, Pilgrim, has also lectured at dozens of colleges and universities nationwide, including Stanford University, the University of Rochester, Virginia Theological Seminary, the University of Michigan, Washington University, Smith College, and the University of North Carolina.