The father of multicultural education

By

Meghan Krein

Over 70 years ago, James A. Banks was on an Arkansas farm, picking cotton. In a segregated community, he walked five miles to school while a bus took the “white kids.” Early on, Banks was aware of the inequality and inequitable opportunities available to him and developed a strong commitment to social justice issues. 

Today, Banks is Kerry and Linda Killinger Endowed Chair in Diversity Studies and director of the Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Washington. He is regarded as the “father of multicultural education” due to his pioneering research and groundbreaking work in the field.


A former elementary school teacher, renowned social studies methodologist and advocate for social justice issues, Banks’ is also a past president of the American Educational Research Association and the National Council for the Social Studies. Recognized for his exemplary educational research and scholarship, Banks is an elected member of the National Academy of Education, an inaugural fellow of the American Educational Research Association and has received honorary degrees from six colleges and universities. Banks also serves as the editor, with his wife, Dr. Cherry A. McGee Banks, of the award-winning “Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education” (2nd edition).

Banks has won numerous scholarly awards, including Distinguished Career Awards from both the AERA (1996) and the National Council for the Social Studies (2001) and was honored as the first recipient of the AERA Social Justice in Education Award (2004) for his lifelong commitment to advancing social justice through education research. He has authored and edited more than 100 journals, 60 book chapters and 20 books. 

Visit Inside the Academy of Education to read more about Banks, watch more videos and see personal photos.