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Founders Day Honorees

Forever Blue: Founders Day 2024 Honorees

2024 Honorary Degree Recipient Dr. Ruha Benjamin, C'2001

Recognizing her family as her first classroom and where she became a student of race-ethnicity, gender, class, citizenship, and diaspora, Dr. Ruha Benjamin’s educational path included Spelman College, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology and anthropology and minor in creative writing in 2001. As an undergraduate, she was founder of SASSAFRAS (Sociological-Anthropological Sisterhood: Scholar Activists for Reshaping Attitudes at Spelman) and graduated as valedictorian of her class. 

She continued her studies at the University of California Berkeley, earning a Master of Arts and a Doctor of Philosophy in sociology. Dr. Benjamin then completed postdoctoral fellowships at UCLA’s Institute for Society and Genetics and Harvard University’s Science, Technology, and Society Program. Honored for her work and contributions to her fields of study, she has been awarded fellowships and grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, National Science Foundation, Ford Foundation, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and Institute for Advanced Study.

After joining the faculty of Princeton University in 2014, Dr. Benjamin received the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton in 2017, and in November 2020 was promoted to full professor of African American Studies. She was among the first cohort of the Marguerite Casey Foundation Inaugural Freedom Scholar Fellows, an initiative supporting progressive academics at the forefront of movements for economic and social justice. Dr. Benjamin is furthering her impact as the Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of African American studies at Princeton University, where she specializes in the interdisciplinary study of science, medicine, and technology with a focus on the relationship between innovation and social inequity.

Dr. Benjamin is the author of four books, including Imagination: A Manifesto (Norton 2024), Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want (Princeton University Press 2022), winner of the 2023 Stowe Prize, Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code (Polity 2019), winner of the 2020 Oliver Cromwell Cox Book Award for antiracist scholarship and the 2020 Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize for Nonfiction, People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier (Stanford University Press 2013). She is the editor of Captivating Technology: Race, Carceral Technoscience, and Liberatory Imagination in Everyday Life (Duke University Press 2019).

Regarding her books, Dr. Benjamin says, “Taken together, this body of work addresses debates about how science and technology shape the social world and how people can, should, and do critically engage technoscience, grappling all the while with the fact that what may bring health and longevity to some may threaten the dignity and rights of others.” 

Dr. Benjamin has authored many articles and book chapters in which she speaks widely about the relationship between innovation and inequity, knowledge and power, race and citizenship, health and justice. She is also the founding Director of the Ida B. Wells Just Data Lab, which brings together students, educators, activists, and artists to rethink and retool data for justice. 

Continually inspiring, Dr. Benjamin shared, “Remember to imagine and craft the worlds you cannot live without, just as you dismantle the ones you cannot live within.”