The Dr. Ira E. Harrison ABA Legacy Award (formerly the ABA Legacy Scholar Award) was established in 2009, under the presidency of Kimberly Simmons (2008-2010), to honor senior anthropologists for their significant contributions to research, scholarship, and service to communities of African descent in the United States and throughout the African Diaspora.

The award embraces the idea of Sankofa, the Akan word meaning looking back to move forward. We use the symbol of the Sankofa bird to represent an appreciation of the past – paying tribute and respect to those who came before us. In this way, ABA recognizes our elders for having created career opportunities for Black anthropologists and others over time as well as a path for others to follow in the discipline. We appreciate and thank them for their example, commitment, and professionalism.

The first three recipients of the award were George C. Bond (2009), Johnnetta B. Cole (2009), and Audrey Smedley (2009). In 2010, Faye Harrison and Ira E. Harrison (no relation) received the award.

Candidates for the ABA Legacy Award can either be nominated by colleagues or selected directly by the ABA Legacy Award Committee. Nominations should include the candidate’s name and a brief 250 word description of their contribution to the field.

In celebration of our 50th anniversary in 2021, we honored Sheila Walker and Michael Blakey at a celebratory reception at the AAA meetings in Baltimore, Maryland.

ABA renamed the award in honor of Dr. Ira E. Harrison (“Mr. ABA” – [1933 to 2020]) during Riché J. Daniel Barnes’s presidency (2019-2021). Dr. Harrison was one of the founding members of the ABA, former ABA President (1985-1987) and also ABA archivist.

Candidates for the ABA Legacy Scholar Award should have/be:

  • Significant research or applied contribution to the field of anthropology
  • Work related to the people of African descent
  • At least 25 years of professional experience
  • A member of ABA