Orlando Patterson

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Orlando Patterson

Orlando Patterson portrait.jpg
Orlando Patterson at the University of California, Berkeley
Horace Orlando Patterson

(1940-06-05) 5 June 1940 (age 82)
TitleJohn Cowles Chair in Sociology at Harvard University
Academic background
Doctoral advisorDavid Glass
Academic work
InstitutionsHarvard University
Doctoral studentsMabel Berezin, Marion Fourcade
Main interests
Notable works"The Sociology of Slavery" (1967); "Slavery and Social Death" (1982); Freedom in the Making of Western Culture (1991)

Horace Orlando Patterson OM (born 5 June 1940) is a Jamaican-American historical and cultural sociologist known for his work regarding issues of race and slavery in the United States and Jamaica, as well as the sociology of development. He is the John Cowles professor of Sociology at Harvard University.[1] His book Freedom, Volume One, or Freedom in the Making of Western Culture (1991), won the U.S. National Book Award for Nonfiction.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Horace Orlando Patterson was born on 5 June 1940 in Westmoreland Parish, Jamaica,[3][4] to Almina Morris and Charles A. Patterson.[5] His parents were strong supporters of Jamaica’s People National Party, the political party he grew up to serve a few decades later. His father was a local detective while his mother became a seamstress. He had six half-siblings on his father's side but was his mother’s only child.[6] He grew up in Clarendon Parish in the small town of May Pen.[7] He attended primary school there, then moved to Kingston to attend Kingston College. While attending Kingston College, Patterson won a Jamaica Government Exhibition scholarship in 1958. Before matriculating in 1959, he taught for a year at the Excelsior High School in Jamaica.[6] He went on to earn a BSc in Economics with a concentration in Sociology from the University of the West Indies, Mona, in 1962.[8] He served as president of the Economics Society, president of the Literary Society and editor of the student magazine 'the Pelican'.[6] Patterson earned his PhD in sociology at the London School of Economics in 1965, where he wrote his PhD thesis, the Sociology of Slavery.[9][6] His dissertation adviser was David Glass.[10] He also wrote for the recently founded New Left Review, his first work being "The Essays of James Baldwin" in 1964.[11] While in London he was associated with the Caribbean Artists Movement, whose second meeting, in January 1967, was held at the Pattersons' North London flat.[12]


Orlando Patterson, before speaking at the University of California, Berkeley on 2 May 2023

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 while serving as a tenured professor at Harvard University. Committed to working both jobs, Patterson split his time between Jamaica and the United States. He often flew to Jamaica the day after his last lecture.[6]

Patterson is best known for his work on the relationship between slavery and social death, which he has worked on extensively and written several books about. Other contributions include historical sociology and fictional writing with themes of post-colonialism. Patterson has also spent time analyzing social science's scholarship and ethical considerations.[13]

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.[14] In 2020 he was appointed a member of the Order of Merit, Jamaica's third-highest national honour.[15]

Professional associations[edit]


Selected works[edit]

External video
video icon Booknotes interview with Patterson on Freedom in the Making of Western Culture, April 12, 1992, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Patterson on The Ordeal of Integration, November 2, 1997, C-SPAN


  • The Sociology of Slavery: Black Society in Jamaica, 1655-1838. 1967; 2022(2nd ed.).
  • 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[2]
  • The Ordeal of Integration. 1997
  • 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.
  • The Confounding Island: Jamaica and the Postcolonial Predicament. 2019.
  • The Sociology of Slavery: Black Society in Jamaica. Wiley, 2022.
  • The Paradox of Freedom: A Biographical Dialogue (with David Scott) 2023


  • The Children of Sisyphus. 1965.
  • An Absence of Ruins. 1967.
  • Die the Long Day. 1972.

Articles and chapters[edit]



  1. ^ "Orlando Patterson".
  2. ^ a b c "National Book Awards – 1991". National Book Foundation. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  3. ^ Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series. Vol. 84. Detroit: Gale. 2000. pp. 374–375. ISBN 978-0-7876-3094-2. OCLC 43416285.
  4. ^ Getachew, Adom (September 21, 2020). "Orlando Patterson and the Postcolonial Predicament". The Nation. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  5. ^ Rosen, Isaac (1993). "Orlando Patterson 1940–". In Bigelow, Barbara Carlisle (ed.). Contemporary Black Biography. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale. pp. 191–194. ISBN 978-1-4144-3543-5. OCLC 527366247.
  6. ^ a b c d e Scott, David (March 1, 2013). "The Paradox of Freedom: An Interview with Orlando Patterson". Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism. 17 (1): 96–242. doi:10.1215/07990537-1665461. S2CID 146742202.
  7. ^ Lambert, Craig (October 15, 2014). "The Caribbean Zola". Harvard Magazine. Retrieved September 26, 2021.{{cite magazine}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ Williams, Richard (1995). "Orlando patterson interview". Sociological Forum. 10 (4): 653–671. doi:10.1007/BF02095773. S2CID 143553641.
  9. ^ Author information at Peepal Tree Press.
  10. ^ Stoltz, Dustin (Fall 2018). "Four Questions for Orlando Patterson". Section Culture: Newsletter of the ASA Culture Section. 30 (3). Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  11. ^ Patterson, H. Orlando (July–August 1964). "The Essays of James Baldwin". New Left Review. Vol. I, no. 26. Retrieved June 4, 2020.
  12. ^ Walmsley, Anne (1992), The Caribbean Artists Movement, 1966-1972: A Literary and Cultural History, New Beacon Books, p. 51. ISBN 978-1873201060.
  13. ^ Greenland, Fiona; Steinmetz, George (2019). "Orlando Patterson, his work, and his legacy: a special issue in celebration of the republication of Slavery and Social Death". Theory and Society. 48 (6): 785–797. doi:10.1007/s11186-019-09371-3. S2CID 213289330.
  14. ^ "Gold for Sly and Robbie", Jamaica Gleaner, 30 October 2015. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
  15. ^ a b Henry, Balford (August 7, 2020). "Orlando Patterson heads list of national honours awardees for 2020". Jamaican Observer. Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  16. ^ "Orlando Patterson". AAPSS. August 9, 2016. Retrieved October 8, 2020.

External links[edit]