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UC Riverside professor joins Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey on ‘Frederick Douglass 200’ list

Former President Barack Obama. Media mogul and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey. And UC Riverside’s Karthick Ramakrishnan.
As they work to honor the 200th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ 200th birthday, American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center teamed up with Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives to find 200 living people they think reflect the abolitionist and social reformer’s legacy.
The Frederick Douglass 200 — which names new honorees every Thursday until all 200 are listed — is divided into seven categories to match the breadth of Douglass’ work. One of those categories — reflecting Douglass’  early advocacy of school desegregation and free public education — is educators.
And one of those educators is Ramakrishnan, founder and director of the Center for Social Innovation at UCR’s School of Public Policy. He’s also the director and principal investigator for the National Asian American Survey and the founder of AAPIData.com , a website that explores policy research and demographic data related to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
“It’s an honor, but it’s kind of intimidating, too,” Ramakrishnan said by phone this week. “Given the people being honored and given the legacy of Frederick Douglass — he’s a titan in American history, let alone civil rights history — it feels like an enormous set of expectations.”
Ramakrishnan said he hopes the award gives a bigger platform to his work as well as others on the list, not all of whom have the profile or resources of Obama or Oprah.
His work compiles and then attempts to spread facts he thinks could significantly impact the public’s views and politician’s actions on current debates. With regard to immigration, for instance, Ramakrishnan sees little acknowledgment that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the two fastest-growing populations in the United States or that one out of seven Asian Americans is undocumented.
Ramakrishnan isn’t the only figure with ties to UCR on the list. Juan Felipe Herrera , the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2017, also taught at the university and was honored in the “writers” category of the list. He couldn’t be reached.
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Others with a Southern California connection include Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles.
The honorees were selected by a committee made up of staff members from the Antiracist Research and Policy Center and Frederick Douglass Family Initiative.

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