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Orlando Patterson (born 5 June 1940) is a Jamaican-born American historical and cultural sociologist known for his work regarding issues of race in the United States, as well as the sociology of development. His book Freedom, Volume One, or Freedom in the Making of Western Culture (1991), won the U.S. National Book Award for Nonfiction.[1]

Orlando Patterson
Born (1940-06-05) 5 June 1940 (age 79)
Home townMay Pen, Jamaica
TitleJohn Cowles Chair in Sociology at Harvard University
Academic background
Doctoral advisorDavid Glass
Academic work
InstitutionsHarvard University
Main interests
Notable worksFreedom in the Making of Western Culture (1991)


Early life and educationEdit

Patterson was born in Westmoreland, Jamaica, and grew up in Clarendon Parish in the small town of May Pen. He attended primary school there, then moved to Kingston to attend Kingston College. He went on to earn a BSc in Economics from the University of the West Indies, Mona, in 1962, and his Ph.D. in Sociology at the London School of Economics in 1965.[2] His dissertation adviser was David Glass. While in London he was associated with the Caribbean Artists Movement, whose second meeting, in January 1967, was held at the Patterson's North London flat.[3]


Earlier in his career, Patterson was concerned with the economic and political development of his home country, Jamaica. He served as special advisor to Michael Manley, Prime Minister of Jamaica, from 1972 to 1979.

Patterson is known for his work on the relationship between slavery and social death, which he has worked on extensively and written several books about.

Patterson has appeared on PBS and has been a guest columnist in The New York Times. A recent article in the latter, "The Real Problem With America’s Inner Cities," used the lens of developmental sociology to analyze recent protests and looting in West Baltimore.[4]

Patterson currently holds the John Cowles chair in Sociology at Harvard University.

In October 2015 he received the Gold Musgrave Medal in recognition of his contribution to literature.[5]

Professional associationsEdit


Selected bibliographyEdit

  • The Children of Sisyphus (novel). 1965.
  • An Absence of Ruins (novel). 1967.
  • The Sociology of Slavery. 1967.
  • An Analysis of the Origins, Development and Structure of Negro Slave Society in Jamaica. 1968.
  • Die the Long Day (novel). 1972.
  • Ethnic Chauvinism: The Reactionary Impulse. 1977.
  • Slavery and Social Death. 1982.
  • Freedom in the Making of Western Culture. 1991. Later renamed Freedom, Vol. 1: Freedom in the Making of Western Culture — winner of National Book Award[1]
  • Rituals of Blood: Consequences of Slavery in Two American Centuries. 1999.
  • Freedom: Freedom in the Modern World. 2006.
  • The Cultural Matrix: Understanding Black Youth (with Ethan Fosse). 2015.


  1. ^ a b c "National Book Awards – 1991". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
  2. ^ Author information at Peepal Tree Press.
  3. ^ Anne Walmsley, The Caribbean Artists Movement, 1966-1972: A Literary and Cultural History, New Beacon Books, 1992, p. 51. ISBN 978-1873201060.
  4. ^ Patterson, Orlando (9 May 2015). "The Real Problem in America's Inner Cities". The New York Times.
  5. ^ "Gold for Sly and Robbie", Jamaica Gleaner, 30 October 2015. Retrieved 1 November 2015.

External linksEdit