Symposium on John Henryism and Social Inequality on May 13

A day-long symposium on “John Henryism and Social Inequality” will be held Tuesday, May 13 at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

The symposium, which will run from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Sanford 04, will honor the career of Professor Sherman James, who developed and investigated the “John Henryism Hypothesis” over the course of his 41-year career. James coined the term to present the idea that poor and working-class individuals, especially African Americans, who engage in “high-effort coping” with difficult social and economic conditions may be at increased risk for early onset of hypertension and heart disease. The hypothesis has been expanded upon in dissertations and articles by other scholars.

Colleagues and former students of James, the Susan B. King Professor of Public Policy at Duke, will give presentations on topics that include James’ background and career, racial disparities in health and public policy, and issues in psychosocial epidemiology.

The symposium will also include talks on the impact of James’ research during his tenure on the faculties of the University of North Carolina, University of Michigan and Duke. James, who also holds faculty appointments in sociology, community and family medicine, and African and African American Studies, will retire this year after 11 years at Duke.

Five Sanford professors will present papers at the symposium:

-- Jay Pearson: “The Distribution of Objective and Subjective Health Inequities by Race, Ethnicity and Nativity;”

-- Robert Korstad: “Eastern North Carolina’s Long Civil Rights Movement;”

-- Charles Clotfelter, Helen Ladd and Jacob Vigdor : "Race and Educational Opportunity in North Carolina.”

The symposium is free, but registration is required. To RSVP, go to